Get to know Dr Tom Roques, our Clinical Oncology MDPP

Tuesday 13 November 2018

We interviewed Dr Tom Roques, our Medical Director, Professional Practice for Clinical Oncology. We found out about why he stood for office, his views on College involvement and the best advice he was ever given.

What made you stand for office?

I saw the way previous MDPPs had been able to lead projects to help the working lives of Fellows and members – and hence to help our patients. I have always enjoyed my College roles and the headspace which time away from the day job creates. I recently stood down as head of department in Norwich after six years and was looking for a new challenge. All these came together with unusually perfect timing.

What is your favourite thing about The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR)?

There is a fantastic group of people behind the scenes who have the resources and energy to make things happen. So change is possible – more easily than in the frenetic, resource-poor NHS.

How would you best describe the RCR in just three words?

Effective, supportive, stimulating.

Which parts of the College would you like to see Fellows and members become more involved with?

I have thoroughly enjoyed all my College roles to date and I have yet to meet someone who regrets RCR involvement. I would strongly encourage people to investigate which parts of College life fit their interests (education, guidelines, QI etc) and to get involved. Time away from the coalface will undoubtedly benefit their day job too.

What made you choose clinical oncology as your specialty?

I was drawn to oncology by the patients: the privilege of communicating about life and death with individuals at a very critical time in their lives. My choice was cemented by looking at the trainees and consultants I would be working with and seeing what varied, interesting and rewarding lives they had.

If you could give one piece of advice to medical students considering a career in clinical oncology, what would it be?

Much of what life is like as an oncologist is hidden from medical students and F1/2 doctors who only see ward-based care. Most of our time is spent in outpatients guiding people through the uncertainty of difficult decisions, with the fantastic stimulating environment of MDTs or in hidden tasks like contouring. So spend time with an oncologist and see if you would like to do what they do.

What is the best thing about your job?

The patients – most are hugely grateful for what we do as healthcare professionals, even when we don’t get it quite right, and that continued positive feedback is very gratifying and humbling.

If you weren’t a doctor what would you be doing instead and why?

A sports commentator/journalist. I love watching most live sports and the chance to have a front row seat for major events in exchange for talking and writing about them would be great.

What three items would you take to a desert island?

A bicycle, a GPS to measure things and as large a fiction library as possible.

If you could learn a new skill, what would it be and why?

To play the Northumbrian smallpipes. I have always loved their sound and bought a set ten years ago. I can play a tune or two but I would love to be good enough to play with others in a folk group.

What would your friends say is your greatest quality?


If you could invite three people to dinner, past or present, who would you invite and why?

I’d most enjoy spending time in the company of three of my best non-medical friends or family – good food, wine and conversation is my favourite way to relax. I can’t choose my family as I would have to decide which of my wife and three children not to invite!

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Anyone can be a doctor to your patients, but only you can be a parent/partner etc. to those close to you. But like much good advice it is not easy to implement.

Who inspires you and why?

Atul Gawande – the way he thinks and writes about what it means to be a physician underpins much of the way I practice. If you only read one book about medicine, read ‘Better’.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Gaining a place to read medicine at Cambridge. My time there really shaped me as a person and provided life-long friends.

You can also read our interview with Dr Mark Callaway, the RCR's Medical Director, Professional Practice for Clinical Radiology.