Eight questions with Dr Matt Mak
A familiar face to viewers of 24 Hours in A&E, Matthew Mak is a doctor in the Emergency Department of King’s College Hospital, a position he has held for more than a year. Before coming to King’s, he worked in the emergency department of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and was a clinical advisor at the World Health Organisation. He received his medical degree from Imperial College, where he was Deputy President of the Student Union and a member of the Light Opera Society.
What is the best thing about King’s College Hospital and why?
The people. Everyone from nurses and doctors to porters and therapists make up this huge team of people whose job it is to improve the quality of healthcare provided to our local population and beyond. We’re very lucky to have many of the world’s experts in lots of clinical disciplines here at King’s.
What is the most unusual situation you’ve come across at work?
There are always the stories that you get from every A&E department about people with things stuck in various orifices, so I’m not going to dwell on those. It’s probably the handful of times I’ve ended up delivering a baby either in the car park, ambulance bay or in resus. It always brings a smile to everyone’s face and really makes a shift that much more enjoyable.
24 Hours in A&E is gripping television. How well does it capture what your job is like?
As far as documentaries go, I think it provides a great deal of insight into the workings of a busy Emergency Department – but you have to remember that it's 24 hours worth squeezed into 45 minutes of TV. I think the producers and directors have captured the pace of work and diversity of patients well but obviously there is a greater focus on resus over the minors and majors patients, which is more the bread and butter of our work. I don't think watching me trying to book a scan or find a translator makes for quite as gripping television as a trauma call!
Working in A&E appears very stressful. How do you deal with that?
We have an incredibly supportive team at King's and it's not as stressful as it might appear. Personally, I think I work better under a small amount of stress. There are always people you can talk to, and the senior doctors and nurses are so experienced they can help with any queries or worries you might have.
Are you surprised the show is so popular?
Yes. The appeal of the series is not just the insight it provides into the modern NHS and Emergency Departments but the stories of real life events. Stories which happen in every A&E department up and down the country but we just happened to let the cameras in. I guess viewers enjoy watching the drama of real life unfolding in our A&E, and the fact that not only the staff but the patients involved are willing to share these intimate, and often emotional, moments with the Great British public.
Has featuring in 24 Hours in A&E changed anything for you?
It’s all been a totally surreal experience, if I’m honest. It’s made me more aware of how I interact with patients, and how I communicate with others. Apart from that, there have been occasional moments when I’ve been stopped by someone in the street to be told that they really enjoy the series which has been really nice, if a little embarrassing!
What are your interests?
Travelling – I would love to take a few months off to go explore places I’ve never been to, and I have Hawaii, Alaska, Brazil, Israel on my ever-expanding list of countries to visit.
Cooking – my dad trained as a baker and I think I learnt from a young age some of his skills. I love cooking and entertaining, and find it relaxing and enjoyable to see friends enjoying food that has been made for them.
What is your greatest ambition?
Career-wise, I’d be extremely happy to be an emergency medicine consultant in a London hospital with responsibilities for training and education of both medical students and junior doctors. Other than that, to have good health and family and friends close by.