Spotlight on Tullie Yeghan - Consultant Haematologist

Tullie Teghen Dr Tullie Yeghen has been a consultant haematologist at Lewisham Hospital for six years.

She recently received an NHS Heroes award after being nominated by two of her patients. We caught up with her to talk to her about her role here at Lewisham and about the award.

What does your role entail?

My role has a number of components. Firstly, I care for patients with disorders of the blood, such as sickle cell disease, haemophilia, thalassaemia, and leukaemia. I see patients in clinics and when they are inpatients. I also care for patients with haematological cancers who are undergoing chemotherapy.

I have a laboratory role which involves reporting on blood films, giving advice to laboratory staff and liaising with GPs when a patient has abnormal results.

Finally, I have managerial and teaching responsibilities – we have a number of trainees in haematology who I help to train.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I like to see and get to know my patients – a lot of whom have chronic conditions. Most people who have haematological disorders tend to have them for a long time and require regular follow-ups, which mean I have an opportunity to form a strong relationship with them.

Can you tell us more about the haematology service at Lewisham?

There are three consultants, four junior doctors and a team of specialist nurses in the team, and we provide a broad range of laboratory and clinical services to meet the needs of the local population.

At Lewisham we provide Level 2 haemato-oncology, which means that we see people with acute leukaemia and treat them here in the hospital. This means that they don’t have to go out of the borough for their care.

The high incidence of sickle-cell disease in Lewisham (one of the highest rates in London) means that we see more patients with the condition than most other hospitals, of a similar size, in the country. We currently treat around 180 adults and a similar number of children.

We also have a dedicated haemophilia centre for patients with inherited bleeding disorders, which provides clinical, nursing, laboratory and social support.

You received an NHS Heroes award after being nominated by two of your patients. One said that you were “empathetic, caring, knowledgeable and the best doctor ever”. How does it feel to get this sort of feedback from a patient?

I was touched and very overwhelmed by the nominations. Such fantastic praise also comes with a little bit of pressure- to continue to live up to the high standards that my patients set for me!

What do you like most about working at Lewisham?

Lewisham is a very friendly hospital with lots of lovely patients, and the particular needs of the local population make for very interesting and rewarding work. There is a fantastic group of staff here who all work really well together, and it has a real community feel.

We also have a number of trainees who I enjoy training and mentoring. In-fact I was once a trainee at Lewisham and I liked it so much that I decided to come back here as a consultant!

What is your proudest achievement at Lewisham?

I was very proud when I was offered a job here as a consultant. As I mentioned previously, I was a trainee here and it showed that they had enjoyed working with me and valued my ability.

It also makes me very proud when we train a junior doctor and they then decide to become a haematologist because of the work they have done with us. It is very rewarding to feel that you have been able to inspire someone.

What do you feel are the most important aspects of good patient care?

In my opinion there are two very important aspects of good patient care. The first is having up to date knowledge and the ability to apply this knowledge to treat someone successfully, even if they are very unwell.  The second is treating patients in a friendly and empathetic way which takes into account the whole of the patient rather than just the physical illness.

How do you feel medical advances will impact upon the field of haematology over the next five years?

There are a number of new anti-body drugs coming through which are absolutely wonderful and will very positively impact upon the treatment of patients with cancers of the blood.

What made you decide to become a doctor?

I was quite ill as a child and I thought the people looking after me were so wonderful that it inspired me to follow in their footsteps.

What would you do if you weren’t a doctor?

As a little girl I wanted to be an air hostess or a ballerina! However,  later on if I had not succeeded in medicine, I think I would have become a lawyer.

And finally, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I love reading, meeting with friends and travelling – especially to the Caribbean.