Professor Peter Mortimer

Professor Peter Mortimer is a dermatologist and specialist in lymphovascular medicine which studies and treats clinical consequences of lymphatic dysfunction.

Professor Peter Mortimer is a dermatologist and specialist in lymphovascular medicine which studies and treats clinical consequences of lymphatic dysfunction. He works at St George’s Hospital, the Royal Marsden Hospital and Parkside Hospital, Wimbledon

I must have been influenced from an early age as I can remember playing doctors when I was seven. I never thought of any other career which is odd as we didn’t have any doctors in the family.

I became a specialist in lymphovascular medicine, which deals with disorders of the Lymphatic system. Lymphovascular medicine is a Cinderella area of medicine. We have cardiovascular physicians but when I first started, no one specialised in diseases of the lymphatic system. Lymphoedema is the main condition but there are many other manifestations particularly infection. I developed the first trainee post in lymphovascular medicine in the UK and that trainee is now a consultant.

It may be a cliché but it really is the interaction with patients. What I’ve always enjoyed most in medicine is confronting difficult diagnoses. The reward comes from having success in challenging cases and putting patients on the right track to getting better, often when they’ve had little or no help elsewhere.

Yes, Professor Terence Ryan who was my boss in Oxford when I started as a senior registrar. He told me to focus on lymphatics suggesting that in two years, I would become a world expert! I was flattered he thought so highly of me but soon realised that if you were one of few working in the specialist area it was not difficult to become an expert! This theme continues today as when patients come to see me they may say ‘we had to see you as we were told you are the best there is’. I tell them I’m also the worst as I’m the only one.

Professor Ryan is a very active 82-year-old and remains my mentor. He is full of vision and inspiration. Only last month we spoke at the same conference in Glasgow. A long time ago he advised that if you go to a conference, you should take 50% benefit from the conference and 50% from the location itself in terms of culture, history etc.

Gaining my personal chair and my success in research. Seeing lots of patients drives the research because you’re looking for answers. Now it’s much harder for doctors on NHS salaries to see patients and conduct research at the same time.

In 1985 Professor Ryan and I held the first meeting of what went on to become the British Lymphology Society. It’s the national organisation for health care professionals working in lymphovascular medicine and I am honoured to be their patron.

In 1990 I encouraged two therapists at the Royal Marsden to start a patient support group. This developed into the Lymphoedema Support Network, which is a registered charity and the UK’s national patient support organisation for lymphoedema with over 3,500 members. It lobbies for improved education, training and treatment for patients and I am their chief medical advisor.

My charitable work extends beyond the UK. I am involved in advising and helping lymphoedema clinics in India and Africa.

Yes I’m very privileged. There are around 500 members by invitation only. The only way to guarantee membership is to win the Wimbledon singles Championship. The Championships are still run essentially by the committee with other major sporting events such as the World Cup and Olympics coming to Wimbledon to see how it’s done! So membership is not just about tennis it is about people who have the right mix of professional and sporting experience who can contribute to the success of the Club and the Championships. I’ve been a member for 20 years and still get an enormous buzz when I walk through the gates or play on the Wimbledon grass. The best part of it all is that despite the tennis elite and very high profile members, all egos disappear at Wimbledon and everyone is an equal.

Tennis has always been a big part of my life. I played competitive tennis at junior and senior county level and was National University Doubles Champion. Tennis is an important distraction from the obsessive nature of work. If I play any other sport I am still thinking about work but with tennis, I can only think about the game. It also introduced me to my wife, Penny. We did our courting around the back of Centre Court at Wimbledon during the junior national championships.

I always look forward to watching Andy Murray. What he achieved in winning last year was, in my mind, was one of the greatest ever achievements in British sport. It was an incredible performance. I don’t think his public profile reflects the person he is. He is sensitive and thoughtful and contributes a lot to charitable causes.

Myself and my body! It’s always a challenge to perform to high standards on the tennis court but the joints make it harder now.

I would echo my mentor Professor Ryan. Develop an expertise in a niche area in medicine, which is valued, and it will make you valuable.

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