Mr Ali Noorani is a leading orthopaedic consultant specialising in shoulders and elbows at the Upper Limb Service (Shoulder & Elbow) at St Bartholomew’s and the Royal London Hospital and the Barts Health NHS Trust. He is Medical Director and Chairman for Orthopaedic Specialists; President and Chairman for The Harley Street Specialist Hospital, Chief Medical Advisor for JS Healthcare Division; and CEO of Next AI
OPN: What drove you to choose surgery as a career – and orthopaedic surgery in particular?
AN: I come from a long line of medics, doctors and surgeons, both of my parents were surgeons whilst numerous aunties and uncles and even my grandfather and great grandfather were doctors. My sisters are both surgeons too.
Our parents never actually forced us to do medicine, but I saw how well my parents were respected in their given fields, and the help they gave their patients and all who were in their care, and I knew this was the direction I wished to pursue. I qualified from Imperial College School of Medicine in London in 2000 and completed my orthopaedic and trauma training at the prestigious Royal London Hospital Rotation.
I have always been extremely practical and good with my hands, building and fixing things. I knew I would be a surgeon but it was only when I started to see how an orthopaedic surgeon can have such an impactful relationship with their patient that I knew it was for me. What I do can help an athlete to achieve records and medals. What I do can also help a regular person get back to work, or be free of pain.
OPN: In 2021, it is clear that the healthcare industry has been greatly impacted by last year’s events, what has been the greatest impact within the orthopaedic industry?
AN: Once the initial shock of the first lockdown was over we were back to treating people as normal. People are still having accidents so we need to rehab them or arrange surgery to fix the problem. Elite athletes are still training and some are competing and sustaining injuries so it’s business as normal. If anything, for those people who have been considering elective treatments for nagging injuries the hiatus has given them the impetus to come forward and make proactive decisions about having treatments to help them heal, so we are certainly seeing more of them now.
OPN: What’s the best part of your job?
AN: Getting a person back to what they love doing. My clinical specialty means that patients are able to respond very well, you can solve their problem, fix them and get them back to what they love to do. So it is very rewarding work. It is a privilege in life to see all of society – from A-list VIP movie stars, to world famous power lifters and regular people who have hurt themselves.
OPN: … and the worst?
AN: Looking at the world, I know that there are so many people who need our professional medical care and don’t have access to it. That is an extremely frustrating situation to watch, and makes me determined to try and redress that balance.
OPN: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
AN: I have been fortunate to have so many, but I have been lucky enough to have worked with some of the most famous sports stars, such as premiere league footballers, professional cyclists, boxers, and mixed martial arts champions. I’ve been the UK team doctor for the NBA, the orthopaedic doctor for the NFL and for the Rugby World Cup. However, having a good result when dealing with a trauma, where someone really needs my help is much more rewarding.
OPN: Are you currently involved in any scientific research within your work?
AN: Throughout my career I’ve been involved in several aspects of clinical research, especially within the upper limb world. More recently my research has been looking at AI algorithms to offer predictive models in healthcare. The research that I’m proud of is using AI algorithms that look at big data and mitigate for race and gender bias that is often missed in normal routine medical practice
OPN: If you weren’t an orthopaedic surgeon what would you be?
AN: I already have several leadership roles but my favourite is being an orthopaedic surgeon. I have increasingly followed the Japanese concept of ‘Ikigai’. Ikigai considers four different concepts, all of which encompass how I feel about my career – ‘do a job that you love, do a job you can get paid for, do a job that you are good at, do a job that the world needs.’
Being an orthopaedic surgeon allows me to have a perfect job. I can’t think of anything better than that.
OPN: What would you tell your 21-year-old self?
AN: The same that I will tell my current 45-year-old self: Enjoy life more, travel more, sleep more, spend more time doing exciting things and look after your health. Spend more time with family. Maybe one day I will listen to these myself!
OPN: If you were Health Minister for the day what changes would you implement?
AN: People who know me also know that I have a very analytical mind. I have figured out how the NHS can run elective orthopaedic surgery more efficiently, safely, with better patient outcomes and at a much lower cost. At a micro level I have proven the concept. As a health minister perhaps I could make that happen on a wider scale.
OPN: Away from the clinic and operating theatre – what do you do to relax?
AN: I rarely stop working because I love my work, so I am often planning and formulating plans, though I do have two afternoons a week where I try to relax and think.
I love music and sometimes listen while operating in theatre and depending on how I feel this will often be heavy metal or rock. My favourite song is Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else matters’, and I also like Pink Floyd.
I like to walk around London and I don’t need a car.
OPN: How do you think the future looks in the field of orthopaedic surgery and what are your predictions for 2021 and the next decade?
AN: If we don’t innovate then nothing changes. Innovation for the sake of innovation is not ideal, but targeting to address a specific problem to improve healthcare is vital. We need to innovate in healthcare to provide sustainable healthcare for the masses of the world population and not limit this to the privileged few who can afford to pay.
I predict that in the next decade the use of biologics and the use of AI algorithms is going to substantively reduce the cost of delivery of healthcare and the same time improve the outcomes.