Friday, May 12, 2017
Expert Opinions: Nigel Shaun Matthews, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, University of North Carolina at Chapel- Hill, U.S.A.
Dr. Matthews is a renowned Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon with a particular interest in TMJ surgery. He is doubly qualified in Medicine (London) and Dentistry (Dundee) and he has practiced in several major Units in the UK. Before moving to the University of North Carolina at Chapel-Hill, he was a Consultant OMFS Surgeon at King’s College Hospital, London. Apart from being an exceptional clinician, Dr. Matthews is an inspiring teacher.
Read below, his extremely interesting answers to THE HEAD AND NECK BLOG!
1 Dr. Matthews, why did you choose to specialize in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS)? What makes this field special for you?
I actually discovered the specialty of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery quite by accident, and in fact knew little or nothing about it as a dental student. When I first qualified from dental school, I decided to undertake a hospital position as a junior resident in Oral Surgery, and was highly motivated and mentored by my Consultant at the time who was a world renowned surgeon by the name of Derek Henderson. It was through my interactions with Mr. Henderson that I “fell in love” with the specialty of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery because it offered the perfect marriage between hard tissue and soft tissue surgery.
“[…] being able to restore damaged or compromised
facial tissue to as near to its original form as possible,
is extremely important to the affected patient
and is the hallmark of success of the OMF surgeon.”
What makes this field special for me is the fact that “the face” is extremely important to each and every one of us, and we often judge and form an opinion on people within the first few seconds of meeting them, based purely on the way that they look and their facial demeanor. Consequently, being able to restore damaged or compromised facial tissue to as near to its original form as possible, is extremely important to the affected patient and is the hallmark of success of the OMF surgeon.
2 What are the most important qualities of an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon?
For me, the most important qualities of an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon are that they must clearly love people and have a burning desire to help improve the quality of their lives. They must also have compassion, empathy and a good sense of judgment, and recognize when it is in the best interests of the patient, not to offer surgical intervention. This I feel, is the hallmark of a good clinician and surgeon; that is, knowing when it is best not to operate, being realistic about the patient’s outcomes and what is achievable, and managing each patient’s expectations of success accordingly. Sometimes, the old adage of “discretion is the better part of valor” is especially applicable to our work as surgeons. Having an eye for attention to detail and ensuring precision in everything that we do, is also an important character trait in an Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon.
“This I feel, is the hallmark of
a good clinician and surgeon; that is,
knowing when it is best not to operate […]”
3 What do you expect to change in OMFS practice over the next decade?
I expect the practice of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery to become even more technological over the next decade, in that minimally invasive procedures will become more commonplace, and virtual surgical planning will enable us to refine our surgical techniques and more accurately resect and reconstruct bony and soft tissue defects. The advances made in this area over the last few years have been remarkable, and as the technology continues to evolve, our ability to best serve the communities in which we work will improve further. There is also no question that tissue engineering will play a major role in our reconstructive efforts over the next decade and it is therefore important that we continue to support the endeavors of our research colleagues who are at the cutting edge of these types of developments.
4 Is there a role for surgeons in basic/ clinical research? How could they possibly combine research activity with clinical practice?
Yes, I do believe that there is a role for surgeons in basic/clinical research but the demands placed on surgeons in a busy clinical practice often make it extremely difficult to devote the time required to integrate research activity into their clinical practice. This will only be possible by ensuring that there is dedicated time during the working week for interested surgeons to spend on clinical research, supported by the ancillary personnel who can provide the essential administrative back-up. Hospital employers have to understand and “buy-in” to the value of clinical research driven by surgeons, if this is to be successful.
“It can be a long, hard road but having the ability to change the lives of patients, many of whom have been afflicted by devastating facial conditions and bear the psychological scars to prove it, is truly a privilege that none of us should ever take for granted.”
5 What would you advice a student aspiring to follow a career in OMFS?
Put quite simply, my advice to any aspiring student wishing to pursue a career in OMFS would be to “follow your dream!” It can be a long, hard road but having the ability to change the lives of patients, many of whom have been afflicted by devastating facial conditions and bear the psychological scars to prove it, is truly a privilege that none of us should ever take for granted. Patients put their trust in us to help in any way that we can and we must therefore ensure that we deliver on this trust to the best of our ability. I feel extremely lucky to do the work that I do!
Thank you very much Dr. Matthews for sharing your knowledge, your experience and your ideas with THE HEAD AND NECK BLOG. I am truly honored to be able to start this section with your interview.