Tony Saner’s first degree was from South Africa’s only veterinary school. He practised as a vet, then took up a Rhodes Scholarship to study cardiac physiology at the University of Oxford before returning to South Africa to study medicine. His long career as a general practitioner was profoundly shaped by his time as a GP trainee in Norfolk. Five years ago he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma but despite all predictions remains alive and well. In this conversation we explore the implications of changing career paths, discuss the nature of general practice and hospital medicine and talk about the impact of serious illness in our own lives.