Interview with: Thoracic surgeon, Stephanie Fraser

Time to read: 5 minutes Today we introduce to you Nurturer, Joyful Storyteller, Achiever Stephanie Fraser.

How do you describe what you do? What is unique about what you do? What makes you stand out?

I am a thoracic surgeon who deals mostly with patients who have been diagnosed with lung cancer. Surgery as a specialty has not historically prioritised cohesive team work, but this is something that I bring to my team. I feel that shifting the focus away from result-based outcomes and more towards providing a compassionate cancer service is a key part of my role.  

With the medical team learning to use the da Vinci surgical system for robotic surgery

What inspired you to go and do it?

I was incredibly inspired by a neurologist when I was a medical student. He engaged in a consultation with a young woman who had symptoms that had destroyed her quality of life for years. He was kind, thoughtful, and prepared in the way he elucidated her fears, expectations, and frustrations. By the time the patient left the room, her symptoms had abated. I asked him how that was possible without treatment and he explained that often, your consultation was as therapeutic as the medication you prescribed. The idea that the language we use and the way we listen to people could be a treatment in itself inspired me to try to make every interaction I have with my patients therapeutic. I do not always succeed, but I always try.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work or the biggest challenge you have dealt with and how did you overcome it?

Managing my career at the same time as caring for a young child with learning difficulties was a challenge. My husband and I managed years with minimal sleep and I doubted what I was doing on a daily basis. It is my hope that society and industry will adapt to better support parents, but until then, I wish that every parent could have a family as supportive as mine.

With her husband

What is your current Mount Everest? What would you love to create in the world?

I am currently addressing ways to reduce inequalities in the outcomes of lung cancer treatment. The current pandemic brought inequalities in health care front and center and I hope to use this momentum to create a service that meets the diverse needs of all our patients, not just some.

What are the words that describe who you are in your essence and do you feel they are being expressed through your work?

In my essence I am a nurturer and feel compelled to understand the lives and stories of other people. I am also highly motivated to achieve excellence and equality in what I do. Connecting through empathy and understanding with my patients, their families and my colleagues is essential to me and the way that I work. Specifically after my experience with iDiscover, having felt more empowered to be creative in the way I meet the needs of my patients, I have focused further on personalised and patient-centred care. This aims to recognise individual needs rather than grouping patients by disease, and through this process I feel very driven to effect change within my specialty.

What is the most inspiring thing that happened to you as a result of iDiscover?

iDiscover helped by giving me the confidence to apply and get accepted to do a Master’s Degree at Oxford as part of my ongoing professional development. I was inspired to expand the scope of my work and to reach out to other specialists to try and translate the benefits of their work into my own specialty.

What do iDiscover and its community mean to you?

iDiscover courses have the capacity to give you a new perspective and narrative for issues that could otherwise halt progress and personal growth. The impact of maintaining relationships with the community of iDiscoverers goes beyond the course itself; It embeds itself in your daily life. I am very grateful to have met a wonderful group of people that I continue to meet with regularly and they are a constant source of challenge and support.

What is your most sacred daily/weekly/monthly ritual or performance hack that really works for you?

I am a firm believer that the best way to achieve high levels of success is to incorporate things that make you feel good about yourself and the world into your workday. This is very specific to the individual, but for me, when I am hitting a brick wall, I either listen to music or meet a good friend. Both things give me the energy I need to keep going even when it’s tempting to give up.

Best travel tip or secret location to share with us?

Saint-Raphael on the Cote D’Azur in July. You can rent a beach-front apartment and sip French wine from your balcony while being serenaded by jazz musicians on the street during their festival. Utter perfection.

Her husband and son while on family holidays in Cote d’Azour

What is your favourite quote or a question you want to leave us with?

When asked for her deathbed advice about life, Esther Perel said that people should ask themselves three questions: 1) will people remember me with a smile 2) did I value and invest in my relationships and 3) did I do the things I dreamed of doing.