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Alastair Forbes has been a consultant gastroenterologist at St Mark's Hospital, London, since 1992, Sub-Dean to the St Mark's Academic Institute since 1993, and is an Honorary Senior Lecturer at Imperial College School of Medicine, London, England. His qualifications include BSc, MD, and FRCP (with UK and European Accreditation in Gastroenterology). He is a member of the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.
Dr Forbes' other responsibilities have included a clinical role in intestinal gastroenterology (especially inflammatory bowel disease) and nutrition, and he is director of the supra-regional service for intestinal failure based at St Mark's. He has a major commitment to research and postgraduate medical education, has successfully supervised a number of doctoral theses completed by his research staff, and is currently supervising seven students working towards higher degrees. Endeavours have been recognized by appointments as College Tutor (Royal College of Physicians), Regional Speciality Advisor in Gastroenterology (Royal College of Physicians), and Regional Programme Director (1996-98). From 1999, Dr Forbes has been the Chairman for Specialist Training in Gastroenterology (North Thames West), and since 1996 he has been the Honorary Secretary to the British Society of Gastroenterology.
In addition to more than 80 original refereed papers, and over 40 review articles and chapters, Dr Forbes has co-authored 9 books, 5 educational videos, and 2 CDROMs. He is author of a single contributor volume on inflammatory bowel disease, the second edition of which is now in press. In addition he is an editor of the International Journal of Colorectal Disease, and editor-in-chief of the CME Journal for Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, as well as (of course) contributing to the smooth running of GastroHep.com.
- What made you decide to become a gastroenterologist/hepatologist?
- I had decided early on that I didn't want to be a variety of other kinds of doctor, and gradually realized that the combination of practical and theoretical appealed most. I had interviews for gastroenterology and cardiology registrar posts on the same day - fortunately the one for gastroenterology came first.
- Who was the teacher you admired the most?
- Perhaps my most impressive teacher was Keith Pettingale, who taught me as a student at King's, and for whom I then worked as pre-reg houseman. The combination of empathy (for trainee and patient) with knowledge, interest, and enthusiasm is a powerful one. He ought to have been a gastroenterologist!
- Which research paper influenced you the most?
- The discovery of fetal steroid binding protein, by Iqbal and Wilkinson, must take the prize for the most influential single paper, as this formed the starting-point for my own MD thesis. However the early work which led to the possibility of long-term intravenous nutrition has had a huge impact on my current clinical practice.
- What is the most important fact that you have discovered?
- That scientific truth hardly (if ever) exists in medicine, and that we should always remain sceptical of received wisdom even when it appears to be factual.
- What is the biggest mistake that you have made?
- Not recognizing sufficiently quickly that a reputation for saying 'yes' leads to an exponentially rising range of commitments.
- What is your unfulfilled ambition?
- To have an ability to do all the things I want to do, in the time available.
- What is your greatest regret?
- That I haven't yet achieved the former.
- How do you relax?
- With music: as a practitioner in private, as a consumer (chamber/opera mainly) in public - my wife is a cellist.
- What is your favorite sport?
- I'm not a sporty type, but skiing is suitably demanding to take my mind off medicine.
- What is your best place in the world?
- Many places for different reasons, but Ravello is special.
- What is your favorite film?
- It changes from year to year - it might include "Casablanca", a James Bond film, or something by Truffaut.
- What car do you drive?
- Vauxhall Tigra.
- What is your best electronic 'toy'?
- The scanner with OCR - I still think of this as something rather akin to magic.
- What book are you reading at the moment?
- "Letter to Lorenzo" by Amanda Prantera, who is the wife of my Italian colleague Cosimo.