King’s alumnus performs royal operation on TV

The Crown

In November, King’s surgeon and alumnus Mr Pankaj Chandak was seen in a dramatic role in the Netflix TV drama The Crown about the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

In the opening episode of the show, Mr Chandak, King’s Research Fellow and Specialist Registrar in Transplant Surgery at Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Trust, ‘staged’ an operation to remove a tumour from King George VI’s lung, known as a pneumonectomy.

It is thought to be the first time a TV scene has used qualified surgeons.

This operation was in reality carried out by Clement Price Thomas in 1951, in a makeshift operating theatre at Buckingham Palace. Film director Stephen Daldry had originally asked Mr Chandak for advice on props for staging the operation, but then decided to use King’s medical experts to ‘perform’ the operation on screen.

Mr Chandak was filmed with consultant transplant surgeon Professor Nizam Mamode, who played the role of Sir Clement, along with Mr Francis Calder, Sister Kim Well and Sister Abigail Keen.

‘An unforgettable experience’ was how Mr Chandak described filming, adding that once they became used to the film crew ‘it felt like a normal day in the operating theatre.’

He added, ‘The prosthetic body was incredibly lifelike, complete with a beating heart, and there was meticulous attention to detail on set to recreate the surgical world from 1951.’

An unexpected benefit of working on the Netflix show was the acquisition of a new medical ‘tool’ for King’s. The production company donated the prosthetic body used for King George VI to King’s Gordon Museum of Pathology. This new education tool, says Mr Chandak, could be used for future demonstrations and to ‘show how far we’ve come with surgery since the time King George VI was operated on.’

Developing 3D printed models for use in medical teaching

How To Be Innovative

It is not the first time Mr Chandak has demonstrated intricate surgical techniques on screen: he is currently involved in developing 3D-printed models for use in medical teaching, particularly in paediatric surgery.

The staging of the operation attracted much media attention, including press coverage in the Daily Mail. Find out more about Mr Chandak’s work. He also joined us at our exclusive alumni event, How to... be innovative, and gave his top tips for staying innovative in the workplace.