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Clinical Ophthalmology

Interview: Prof Fraser

We have interviewed the Dove Medical Press Medical Director and Editor-in-Chief, Prof Scott Fraser. As you will read below, we are privileged to have Prof Fraser as part of our team, he could so well have been opening for the England cricket team instead!

Prof Scott Fraser is a Consultant Ophthalmologist at Sunderland Eye Infirmary in the North East of the UK. He is also Honorary Lecturer at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne and Visiting Professor at the University of Sunderland. He is a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.

His main clinical interest is in glaucoma in which he completed sub-specialty training at Moorfields. His research interests also include glaucoma but more widely he is interested in factors that alter compliance with eye medications. He also has an interest in evidence based medicine and is an Editor for the Cochrane Eyes and Vision group. He has published over 50 peer reviewed articles and over 100 presentations at scientific meetings. He has written chapters for 7 textbooks and has co-written a manual for eye care. 

Q: Where/when did you study for your degree and what were your main research interests?
Prof Fraser: I qualified from Leicester University Medical School in 1988.

Q: How do you think today’s students are served by the education system and educators?
Prof Fraser: From what I have seen, today’s medical students are as bright and committed as they were when I qualified. There is always a tendency to criticize forthcoming generations but I haven’t seen any evidence that standards have dropped.

Q: What are your main research interests now?
Prof Fraser: The main area that really excites me is the communication of medical information, both between practitioners (and between different disciplines) and between practitioners and patients. The methods of conveying this information have expanded rapidly over the last ten years as has the total amount of information. This is why it is increasingly important that this information is conveyed in a simple way, but retains the understanding of its inherent complexity. High quality information needs to come to the fore, especially on the Internet. This is one of my main motivations for being involved with Dove.

Q: How do you think that specialists in the field can make their work more understandable by patients? Should academic/scholarly papers all carry a “plain language explanation” of main findings/conclusions?
Prof Fraser: Practitioners have a duty to make their findings/opinions understandable for patients. Often research is publicly funded and if nothing else the people who stand to benefit should have some idea of this benefit. I would be quite happy for all papers to have a “lay” summary of a few hundred words that describe the paper and its possible implications.

Q: Who, in your opinion, is doing the most interesting/exciting work in your field of science/medicine at the moment?
Prof Fraser: Most ophthalmologists would suggest stem cell research. I suspect. The prospect of renewing worn out cells with new ones has to be enticing, especially in tissues, e.g., the retina and optic nerves that cannot regenerate.

Q: What is your hope for the realistic promise of stem cell research in ophthalmology?
Prof Fraser: To be able to tell patients in the future that we can replace the worn out or damaged nerve will be very exciting, although this is a lot further off than people think. It is equally important to remember most people in the world are blind because of lack of access to basic health care and nutrition.

Q: In your specialty what are the rapidly evolving “hot” areas right now and what might they lead to?
Prof Fraser: Again it would be difficult not to be impressed by the potential for site restoration of stem cell work or genetic engineering.

Q: Who has had the biggest influence on your career as a scientist/clinician etc?
Prof Fraser: Richard Wormald, the coordinating editor of Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group.

Q: What did he do that has been influential on you?
Prof Fraser: He taught me how to look at studies, papers, research, etc with a critical eye. How to evaluate them and look for bias, intentional or unintentional. It is a skill that has served me very well both in my clinical practice and my journal work.

Q: What has been the most far-reaching change that you have experienced during your career as a scientist/clinician?
Prof Fraser: Understanding epidemiological principles and evidence-based medicine whilst undertaking my MD.

Q: As you look over your area of science/medicine, what are the changes you might expect to see in 5 and 10 years?
Prof Fraser: Patient expectations will continue to rise. Some expectations are based on fact and some based on hype. Politicians will attempt to feed these expectations but at some point money will run out. The future of western medicine is about this balance between new treatments and raised expectations and finding the money to pay for them.

Q: Which topics in your area of medicine/science do you think are over-researched?
Prof Fraser: Laboratory science gets a lot of resources and I can understand why this is, but it is important to remember that research into delivery of basic health care will, at present, save far more lives than fixing a faulty gene.

Q: Which area of science/medicine would you most like to know about?
Prof Fraser: I wish I understood medical statistics better (yes really).

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Prof Fraser: To have opened the bowling for the England cricket team at Lords.

Q: Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions that you would like to try to address in the future?
Prof Fraser: No.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Prof Fraser: In my personal life, my children. In my professional life, I am still hanging in there after 20 years.

Q: What is your most marked characteristic?
Prof Fraser: Impatience.

Q: What is it that you most dislike in your area of medicine/science?
Prof Fraser: Egos.

Q: Which topics in your area of medicine/science do you think are under-researched?
Prof Fraser: Health care delivery to developing countries. Millions are blind in one half of the world, and millions are paid to someone kicking a football in the other half.

Professor Fraser was interviewed by Peter Fogarty at Dove Medical Press. Peter has setup interviews with some of our other Editors-in-Chief, so keep a look out for these, they should provide some compelling reading.

If there is someone in a specialist field you would like to read an interview about let us know and we will do our best to arrange it.

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