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Transplant Greats: An Interview with Paul Corris

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Christina Migliore, MD
Junior Faculty & Trainee Council Links Liaison
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
Newark, NJ, USA

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Speaking at ISHLT 2008 in Boston

To continue our series on the legends in the field of heart and lung transplant we get to know a little more about Dr Paul Corris. Prof. Corris needs no introduction. He can always be found at every ISHLT meeting with his trademark scarf and turned up collar. His accomplishments in the field are extraordinary. He served as the President of the ISHLT from 2007-2008 and president of the European Society for Heart and Lung Transplant from 2006-2008. He was elected to the office of President of the British Thoracic Society in 2009-2010. I have included some questions that I thought would let us get to know this prominent and praised physician.

What was your direction in Medical school?
I went to University College London then the Westminster Medical School. I qualified in 1976 and had been taught surgery by the legendary Harold Ellis. I wanted to be a surgeon, though other mentors such as Duncan Geddes who was my tutor (very well respected London respiratory consultant) and the Medical School Secretary Robin Forrest always said I should be a physician. I did the Physician's job first so I would be good at looking after patients post op, then did surgery but realised that surgical interest certainly at that stage was all about what went on in the great THEATRE of Dreams, ie Operating Theatre. I could tie knots and did an emergency appendix on day 7 but soon realised that using my brain as a physician was more exciting than surgery, so I switched to medicine. Respiratory Medicine came from Duncan Geddes - I can be like him or so I imagined.

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ISHLT 2008 in Boston with Drs. Jim Kirklin, Heather Ross, and Mandeep Mehra

Were you always interested in transplant or was there another field that sparked your interest?
After completing my training and research I was appointed to the Newcastle Teaching Hospitals and my research and training became more biased toward lung cancer. I was handy at interventional bronchoscopy at that time. The true story is that I was appointed in 1986 and the Toronto results for SLT just published. One of our CT surgeons, Chris McGregor, knocked on my door one afternoon very early after I had started and said, "Why don't we start a lung transplant programme?" He had started the heart transplant programme in Newcastle so—always on the lookout for excitement—I said why not? We visited Toronto then started and that is how I became involved in the subject that dominated my professional life.

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Session chair at ISHLT 2013 in Montréal

Who were your Mentors?
Harold Ellis, Duncan Geddes, Alastair Brewis, and John Gibson.

What are some of you earliest experiences in transplant?
Explaining to a cardiothoracic surgeon I was going to do a transbronchial lung biopsy early after transplantation (one of the early experiences of this technique). He was worried!

Seriously, there were no rules or rule books in those days and we had a great time integrating research with clinical management and writing the various algorithms for patient management. It was a steep learning curve and great fun but in the pioneering spirit-you had to have the courage to fail. The early transplant folks were all great at sharing information and we helped each other out.

What keeps your interest in the field?
Well we still have not cracked some of the early problems like OB and are seeing new problems to keep us on our toes. There is still so much to try and understand.

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At ISHLT 2012 in Prague

What are some "fun facts" about yourself?

What are some of your favorite films?
The Shawshank Redemption: Hang in there and use your brains, motivate and inspire; all good characteristics for a Transplant Physician.
Casablanca: Try to do the right thing.

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Singing with the Gala entertainers at the Boston Public Library, ISHLT 2008

What are some of your hobbies?

Have you read any good books lately?
I'm currently reading a biography of a physician called Bodkin Adams who murdered a whole number of rich widows in Eastbourne! It's a fascinating court case. He had a brilliant defense lawyer but justice prevailed.

I appreciate a wide number of authors from Charles Dickens to James Elroy.

The author would like to thank Dr Corris for letting us get to know him a little better. He is as generous with his knowledge as he is with his time.

Disclosure Statement: the author has no conflicts of interest.

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