Professor António Parreira 2016
Professor Antonio Parreira has been Clinical Director of the Champalimaud Clinical Centre since almost the very beginning. We asked him about his view on the developments that have been made over the last 5 years.
What exactly is the role of a Clinical Director?
Generally, I organise the clinical services so that they provide good quality medical care and I follow the patients’ progress to ensure that everything is being done in the right way, according to good clinical practices.
More precisely, my role is to contribute to the organisation of the individual area of intervention, from diagnosis right through to post-treatment, coordinating the interaction between the medical teams and other specialists, nurses, technicians etc.
I also coordinate the administrative work that supports the clinic. Monitoring the constant flow of initiatives in terms of clinical research projects and the recruitment of patients for the study of clinical trials is essential. For example, no clinical research projects can take place without prior approval form the ethics committee – this is an essential condition because we are doing this research with patients – and part of my job is to coordinate this ethics committee.
Before you came here in 2011, what did you do?
I worked at the IPO [Instituto Português de Oncologia – Portuguese Institute of Oncology] here in Lisbon, probably the biggest hospital in Portugal specifically dedicated to oncology. My role there was head of hemato-oncology department. Before that, I was head of medical oncology, but I decided to specialise in hemato-oncology later because that was my background.
Why did you decide to join the Foundation, especially so early on in its process?
It was a new project. A very ambitious project. It is something that I have always sought after; that is to connect medical research and clinical services, so that new ideas and innovation can be incorporated as quickly as possible into practice. It was an opportunity that was too good to pass up.
The challenge was so exciting: to build this project from scratch. When I arrived, we had the building and the equipment, but that was it - we didn’t have any doctors or nurses, no infrastructure, not even any computers! But that was the great challenge that we faced. It was simply impossible for me to refuse!
What makes the Champalimaud Foundation stand out from other ostensibly similar institutions?
We are creating several niche areas in oncology, which makes our work here quite special. In radiotherapy, advanced diagnostic procedures, enhanced surgical modalities and other areas, we are pushing the boundaries of medicine. Combine this with the latest equipment and some of the best healthcare professionals and scientists from all over the world and that is what makes us unique.
Then, when you put all of those things into this building, it becomes something really unique. It doesn’t feel like a hospital. The new in-patient wing looks like a hotel, with its fantastic view over the river. We can administer chemotherapy outside, in the private garden, weather permitting. Patients wait in areas that surround a beautiful garden, they don’t wait for their names to be called or take a number, they receive smart phones when they arrive and then they can go for a walk, or have a coffee. It’s more comfortable, more friendly, more human.
Is there any part of the structure of the Foundation that you feel strongly about, in terms of how it can be differentiated from other institutions?
I was a professor in a university for many years and I am passionate about pedagogical values. In a Foundation like this, doing very advanced translational research, education and training is vital. Our neuroscience programme has a wonderful culture of continued learning. We have recently achieved international certification in the Breast Unit and in Nuclear Medicine, and this is becoming increasingly important. In the future, patients will just not come to institutions that are not accredited by external entities. Just as important is to have recognition for training, this is essential to attract the very best professionals to the Foundation. So we must continue along this path of education.
We have a philosophy of “personalised care” here. Could you explain this concept and why it is so important?
Medicine was seen, for many years, as an individual interaction between the doctor and the patient. This is no longer possible in modern medicine. You must collaborate and integrate the knowledge of many when making a medical decision. The multidisciplinary disease management team is the nucleus of our work. For example, in the Breast Unit, every expert that we have with knowledge of the relevant factors works together to provide the best possible care, from diagnosis right through to post-treatment measures, like physiotherapy.
We also understand that there is no such thing as a type of cancer: there is only a type of cancer in a particular individual. It is very well understood that generalisations can never be applied to cancers, that two very similar types of cancer in two very similar people can quite possibly respond very differently to treatment, for example. We are creating patient-centred medicine, looking at the patient as a whole. We all have our own medical “fingerprints” and this is what personalised care is all about, for me.