Inspiring Careers: Dr Tom Dening

Name: Dr Tom Dening

Job title: Clinical psychiatrist and academic psychiatrist in old age psychiatry

Dr Dening is a clinical psychiatrist and researcher, with a particular interest in old age psychiatry.

1. Why did you choose psychiatry?

I got hooked on psychiatry because I had a wonderful teacher during my psychiatry attachment. Then, as I went from one speciality to the next, I realised that a large proportion of patients had physical symptoms without demonstrable pathology and in many ways that was more interesting to understand than if there is an obvious lesion or disease. For example, if you have an ulcer, of course it hurts, but if you have pain that is caused by things in your life then it requires more clinical skill to understand it.

2. What do you do now as a psychiatrist?

I work in old age psychiatry. My most interesting work is seeing people at home in the community. Interviewing people at home requires some different skills from merely sitting in a hospital clinic and the settings are varied and endlessly fascinating. I also spend time with in-patients, most of whom have severe depression or long term psychiatric illnesses. Some of them I have known for 20 years and it is real privilege to learn more about the longer term course of mental disorders. I have also just finished nearly 10 years as the Medical Director of the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Foundation Trust, a busy and challenging management role.

3. One key publication interested students should read:

I am one of the editors of the Oxford Textbook of Old Age Psychiatry (eds. Jacoby R, Oppenheimer C, Dening T, Thomas A, 4th edition, 2008, Oxford University Press). My colleague Alan Thomas and I are in the midst of the next edition, hopefully to be published in late 2012.