Surgeon swaps operating theatre to tread the boards

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Yorkshire surgeon Richard Milton spends his days in the operating theatre and his nights in another kind of theatre. Catherine Scott reports.

By day he performs life-changing surgery for lung cancer patients, but by night he performs on stage bringing roles to life that have included an aristocrat, one of the seven dwarfs, an ‘i-genie’, a matron, a highwayman and even a murderous transexual cabaret singer.

Richard Milton is a surgeon in Leeds

Richard Milton is a surgeon in Leeds

And it’s all for a good cause. Richard Milton, a consultant thoracic surgeon at Spire Leeds Hospital, is part of the Trust Us Theatre Company, an amateur dramatics group whose multi-talented members tread the 
boards to raise funds for medical charities.

The company, formed in 2011 by a group of healthcare workers from Harrogate District General Hospital, has produced six shows and raised more than £10,000 for charity.

“I enjoy it tremendously. It’s a complete escape from my day job,” said Richard, who is married with three children and lives in Leeds.

The group’s first production, Dumbstruck about murder and mayhem was set in a theatrical boarding house in 1960.

“I was coerced into joining the group originally when a respiratory physician from Harrogate was directing a black comedy called Dumbstruck and there was one role that remained unfilled – a murdering transsexual cabaret singer. Guess which role I got!” said Richard.

Rehearsals are held in the evenings and weekends to fit around the members’ paying jobs.

They often play to sell-out audiences and receive rave 

“It’s a challenge fitting it around my work and I have to be extremely organised,” he added.

Richard qualified at Sheffield University Medical School in 1993 before undertaking higher surgical training in cardiothoracic surgery in Yorkshire and was appointed to a consultant position in 2007 at one of the largest regional centres for thoracic surgery in Europe.

He has always enjoyed science 
and wanted to do something really useful in his choice of career.

“I’ve been interested in science since I was young and I used to enjoy watching the American medical drama TV series Quincy as a teenager,” he said.

Choosing to specialise in 
thoracic surgery while working in A&E in Liverpool many years ago, Richard performs a full range of thoracic surgery, covering both benign and malignant conditions.

He uses minimally invasive (keyhole) surgery wherever 
possible and, along with his colleagues, is keen to develop minimally invasive treatment for atrial fibrillation.

“Lung cancer is one of the commonest and deadliest cancers we deal with in the UK with 
about 46,400 cases diagnosed 
every year; the best chance of 
cure is surgery as long as it is caught early enough and patients are fit enough.

“I hope that the future will bring about the earlier detection of lung cancer through screening,” added Richard.