In Conversation With...Maurice Smith
We know there are lots of very interesting people in our Trust, whether through your work, your interests or your hobbies outside work. We want to get to know you and share your story.
This week we’re marking the national Organ Donation Week, so we spoke to Maurice Smith, a consultant geriatrician at our Trust, who also chairs our Organ Donation Committee. We even quizzed him about his famous white coat!
Lives: In Cricklewood with wife Marilyn
And: Maurice took something from both parents into his career. He followed in his father’s footsteps to become a doctor, and is passionate about education thanks to his mother, who was a teacher and linguist.
Tell us more about your role on our Organ Donation Committee
I’ve been the chair for around five years. It’s a small but very important committee.
By donating your organs you can help, and potentially save the lives of, between one to nine people. And it’s not just the main organs you can donate; you can also give your corneas, skin, bone and parts of your bowel.
I’d been interested in organ donation since working with patients with chronic renal failure during my training. I realised very quickly that organ transplants were much more the answer for them than dialysis.
A timely transplant can give extremely poorly patients their lives back – it can ease their suffering and they can get back to work and be with their families.
The main issue we have with organ donation is consent, that’s why I very much welcome the new legislation which will make it that you must opt out of organ donation, rather than opting in.
The most important thing we can do is to raise awareness of the positive impact of donation, and dispel myths, such as a patient being too old to donate, or leaving it for family to wonder whether it’s what they would have wanted.
If you do want to donate your organs when you die, the best thing you can do, whether you’re on the register or not, is tell your family. That will make it so much easier for them at the end, to know it’s what you wanted.
Our Organ Donation team will be holding a stall in the atrium at Queen’s Hospital this Friday (6 September), so please come see us and ask any questions you like!
Congratulations on achieving the Gold Standard Framework accreditation for end of life care on Sunrise A ward
I was delighted that we achieved that, alongside Fern ward at King George Hospital. It was a lot of hard work and the whole team got involved.
It’s a great triumph for a busy team which has lots of other competing priorities. I even wore my gold star tie to celebrate!
Did you always want to be a doctor?
I come from a medical family – my dad, uncle and aunt were all GPs, and I was never really good at anything else.
I liked the idea of becoming a doctor as it was the best way to combine science, which I was good at, with doing good work and helping people.
What wasn’t so easy was deciding later what to specialise in, as there are a least 54 careers in medicine. I chose geriatrics as it was a specialism which combined a wide variety of medicine with a holistic approach to relieving suffering. It was also under-resourced and under-developed then, so I saw there were opportunities.
Tell us more about your career
I grew up in Liverpool and did my training there – they were some of the best days of my life. We’re actually having a 40-year reunion next month, a couple of others from this Trust (one retired) are also due to be there.
When I graduated I worked in Liverpool and Chester hospitals, moving south in 1984 when I applied for a promotion. I planned to do couple of years training here and then go home, however, there are so many teaching hospitals in London I felt there were more opportunities here.
I worked in Middlesex and University College hospitals before joining our Trust in 1989 in my first consultant post at Harold Wood Hospital.
I was the last doctor out and turned off the lights when we moved out of Harold Wood Hospital and into Queen’s. It was quite a shock moving to a large hospital with lots more resources.
I’ve retired twice from our Trust – firstly from my educational role in 2009, and from my clinical role in 2014, but I was encouraged to come back very quickly!
You’re passionate about teaching and passing on your knowledge…
For around three years I was our interim and associate director of medical education, which was a wonderful job.
I enjoy seeing people learn and develop. I’ve learned a lot over my career so I like to hand down that knowledge and expertise which can be used to help our patients and their families.
I think it comes from the fact that I had good teachers – as well as the fact that my mother was a teacher and she taught me that education is priceless and my parents believed that training, guidance and leadership is really important.
What do you enjoy most about being a doctor?
I hope to relieve suffering for our elderly patients and improve their health and quality of life.
It can be a challenge, to find a treatable, curable illness, and in cases where it can’t be made better, there’s lots of good quality care, including end of life care, that we can give.
What do you like to get up to outside work?
I’m a lifelong member of Middlesex County Cricket Club. I’m too old to play now so I like to umpire. I also like watching football, the opera, and listening to classical music.
And spending time with my family. Marilyn and I are a special couple as we were both widowed young. I was 34 and had two young children; Richard, who’s 31 now, was three, and my daughter Juliette, 29, was just 11 months-old when their mother died.
I met Marilyn when taking Richard for a hearing assessment as she was an audiologist. I also have two step-children, Meryl, 39, and Steven, 36, and two grandchildren, Peter, four, and Sydney, who’s five weeks old. We’re a blended family.
Lastly, we must ask you about your famous white coat…?
I’ve always worn it in my career – I know I’m probably the only doctor left at our Trust who does.
I find with frail elderly patients, it helps them to recognise that I am a doctor. Other than that, white symbolises purity so it also shows our patients that I have their best interests at heart. And it’s a good way of keeping my own clothes clean!