Boys in Mind Meets...
An Interview with Jamie McIntosh:
By: Kit Cooper-Harrison
I’m Jamie McIntosh, I’m a consultant surgeon working at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. I specialise in patients with breast cancer and carrying out reconstructive surgery of the breast as part of that. I studied at Bristol University and knew early on that I wanted to do surgery. I liked the instant results that you seem to be able to get. I was always interested in cancer, so I gravitated towards general surgery which tends to be the specialty that looks after quite a few common cancers. I rotated through many different sub-specialties, but I liked breast cancer. It seemed to have a lot of treatments which meant that the outcome for patients was very good.
I enjoy speaking to patients in clinic and developing working relationships with them. It was clear to me very early on that communication was important to patients. Rather than seeing patients as people who needed treatment, you got to know them better than in other specialities. When I started my training, it coincided with the advent of lots of reconstructive procedures that seemed to improve people’s quality of life after treatment, so it was an easy decision to go into it. I’ve never seriously considered any other profession, I’m very glad that I’m doing it because I think it’s a worthwhile job to do.
It’s good to see progression and change and improvements for people. Compared to how things were when I first got exposed to breast surgery around 2000/01, what we do now, and how we do it – the sequencing of different treatments, how we interact with other parts of the hospital, particularly the medical oncology – has changed very significantly, resulting in different options for patients, better outcomes both in terms of treatment and quality of life. That’s a big thing about reconstructive surgery, in addition to treating the cancer safely, you can do it in a way which maintains the quality of life for them which is a very important outcome.
Most patients can understand the need to focus more on the physical part of their treatment. Some, if they have an identified health-related anxiety issue, may need additional support in terms of being able to work through a diagnosis and choose a treatment. We are very fortunate to have a clinical psychologist who we can link with easily in the breast unit. We do quality of life work for patients who may have things like developmental breast asymmetry or are seeking other types of non-cancer related breast surgery. A lot of patients who speak to us may have mental health issues that need to be recognised and supported as part of their decision making.
I’ve got such a great group of colleagues; we are very cohesive. I think we would recognise signs of a colleague struggling and would talk things through with them. I think first and foremost I get support from my colleagues, my family, my wife and kids. Having some space from the work environment is important. My wife is a nurse and I find it useful to talk through things with her. I am family orientated. I really enjoy cycling. I live in Bristol so cycling into the countryside is very therapeutic. On a lovely day, you can get out there and it’s doing you good both physically and mentally to get fresh air and exercise.