A message from the President of RCSI

20 August 2021

Dear Fellows and Members,

I hope that you have had an opportunity for some rest and family time over the past weeks. We in Ireland certainly enjoyed spectacularly good weather for almost two weeks in July – of course we are rarely happy when it comes to weather – it was almost too hot for many! We are fortunate not to have endured the dreadful heatwaves experienced in the USA and Canada and closer to home in Southern Europe. Neither have we had the severe flooding seen recently in Germany and Belgium. Our thoughts go out to the people of Haiti who have suffered another earthquake, even stronger in intensity than the 2010 quake that devastated the country. We must remember those so much less fortunate than ourselves in Ireland, especially our Fellows and Members overseas dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, natural disasters, and civil disturbances, and thank them for their service.

Notwithstanding the highly successful vaccination programme, COVID-19 numbers in Ireland are on the rise again albeit with a reduced incidence of critical illness. Our hospitals are working to capacity at a time when often there is an opportunity to scale back, recover and prepare for the winter surge. The Emergency Department numbers are high and yet again there are long waits for inpatient beds. Everywhere, the system is under strain. While COVID-19 inpatient numbers are less than earlier in the year, those non-COVID patients who require admission are sicker and are presenting with more advanced disease. It is not clear how waiting lists can be managed when the system is at or beyond capacity. With even a 10% increase in elective cases performed, it will take years to clear the COVID-19 excess to return to pre-COVID levels, as unacceptable as they were at the time. The College will continue to advocate for timely access to elective care, while always acknowledging the difficulties under which the HSE operates.

I am pleased to announce that Professor Kevin Barry has been appointed Director of the National Surgical Training Programmes and will take over from Professor Oscar Traynor who has acted in this role for almost 20 years. Professor Traynor will continue in his role as Professor of Postgraduate Surgical Education. In wishing Professor Barry well in his new role, I wish to pay tribute to Professor Traynor for his enormous contribution to surgical training in Ireland and to thank him for the endless hours overseeing interview boards, examinations, ARPCs and curriculum changes, among endless other tasks. Professor Traynor's contributions internationally will be formally recognised by the American College of Surgeons with the award of an Honorary Fellowship of the College in October. Our congratulations to him.

The new Intercollegiate Curriculum in Surgery is now operational for the majority of those in Higher Surgical Training and it seems to be functioning well. Perhaps the one year COVID-19 deferral has given time to resolve potential problems. For those who require information or guidance, the Intercollegiate Surgical Curriculum Programme website is an excellent resource.

In May, I reported that RCSI Council had approved a National Surgical Research Network to support inter-institutional collaborative surgical research across the island of Ireland. This initiative builds on the 2018 report on Surgical Research in Ireland and the outcome of consultation with the Irish Forum for Surgical Research. I am pleased to announce the positions of part-time National Lead and full-time Programme Manager are now advertised and I hope will attract a suitable level of interest. It is Council's hope that provision of a supportive infrastructure will stimulate clinical research across all surgical specialties and healthcare groups on the island of Ireland.

I hope that those on training rotations or who moved hospital appointments in July have settled into their new positions and that the academic year ahead will prove stimulating and rewarding. This week sees the launch of the 2021-2022 CPD portfolio for those not engaged in national training programmes. The programme provides over 693 CPD credits delivered through 114 courses. The need for online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic remains, however face-to-face contact is also very important. Therefore, COVID-19 restrictions allowing, 59 courses will be delivered in-person and 55 will be delivered online. All physically present classes will adhere to strict COVID-19 procedures. I wish to congratulate Professor Oscar Traynor, Mr Kieran Ryan, Mr Padraig Kelly, Ms Paula Mansell and the education team for the excellent CME portfolio now available.

I was very pleased to have been invited to participate in a Symposium on Technology Enhanced Laparoscopic Surgical Skills Training in Africa hosted by Professor Godfrey Muguti, Professor of Surgery, University of Zimbabwe and President of COSECSA. The symposium marks the opening of the new University of Zimbabwe International Centre for Surgical Simulation in Harare. This is a most welcome development and will provide a valuable training resource in Zimbabwe and for some 800 current COSECSA trainees whose training RCSI supports through a collaborative programme in existence since 2008.

The monthly Institute of Global Surgery Grand Rounds recommences after its summer break on Wednesday, 1 September with an interesting discussion on 'The value of surgical mission trips'. The session will be chaired by Professor Mark Shrime, O'Brien Chair of Global Surgery, and will focus on the value that surgical mission trips may have for addressing the global surgery crisis. You can register for the event here.

RCSI has been invited to deliver a Plenary Lecture and Symposium on Training in the 21st Century at the 54th Malaysia-Singapore Congress of Medicine / Annual Scientific Congress of the College of Surgeons Academy of Medicine of Malaysia on 27 August. My thanks to Professor Oscar Traynor, Council Member, Mr Eamon Mackle and RCSI alumnus Dato Professor Yunus Gul for their contributions to the symposium. The meeting is virtual because of COVID-19 and you can download the programme here. My special thanks to Professor Dr Lim Kean Ghee and Council of the College of Surgeons, Academy of Medicine of Malaysia and to his immediate predecessor Professor April Roslani for their invitation to RCSI to participate in the meeting and to Professor Dr Rosmawati Mohamed, Master Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, for the honour of Fellowship of the Academy which I will receive during the opening ceremony.

As our summer break from academia comes to a close, the University is preparing to reopen. There will be increased presence of students and staff on campus, however close observation of COVID-19 protocols will be adhered to. I am hoping that Council will be able to meet in September in-person for the first time in 18 months and my fingers are crossed that we will be able to have a face-to-face Charter Meeting next February. Vice-President Professor Laura Viani and the team in Surgical Affairs have been working to refresh and enhance the schedule for the now biweekly webinar series that will recommence in September. Feedback and suggestions are always welcome, which you can submit by emailing the Fellows and Members team. I look forward to meeting (virtually) as many of you as possible during these sessions.

In the meantime, stay safe.

Kind regards,

P. Ronan O'Connell