1 February 2024

Dear RCSI community,

I write at the end of a busy few weeks where we have witnessed renewed pressures on our hospital systems in Ireland and internationally. During this period, the College has continued to monitor and advocate for measures to minimise the adverse impact of seasonal challenges upon the delivery of timely, scheduled surgical care. However, I am mindful that today, 1 February, has always traditionally marked the beginning of spring and the celebration of Lá Fhéile Bríde/St Brigid’s Day in Ireland – a day that has long symbolised hope and renewal. Therefore, it is with a sense of optimism that I look forward to the fantastic programme that is planned for Charter Week 2024 from 6-9 February in RCSI.

Under the thematic banner of ‘Rising to Challenges in a Changing World’, the programme will explore topics such as the effects of global and environmental changes on surgery and surgical practices, transitions and career pathways in surgery, crisis management, as well as looking to the future by examining the role of new technologies in Irish surgery. The theme and associated symposia have been carefully selected to reflect key priority areas for the surgical community both in Ireland and abroad.

On Wednesday, 7 February, the National Clinical Programme in Surgery will launch new clinical guidelines to support the roll out of the new surgical hubs that are in development. The guidelines have been developed by the Elective Surgical Hubs Clinical Design Group, co-chaired by Professor Deborah McNamara and Professor Frank Keane.

On Thursday, 8 February, Mr James Geraghty, RCSI Council Member, along with Ms Alison McHugh, President ISTG, will co-chair the first symposium, entitled Surgery responding to Global and Environmental Change. I look forward to the presentations ranging from the impact of climate change on surgery to how medical supply chains should be adapted to have regard for environmental concerns. Furthermore, I am delighted that Professor Camilla Carroll, RCSI Council Member, will share the outputs of the Sustainable Surgery Committee, which she chairs. This committee is leading the development of a specific Green Surgery Strategy, which reflects the College’s commitment to reducing the environmental impact of surgical care.

On the afternoon of Thursday, 8 February, an update from one of our RCSI Council working groups – the Late Career Surgeon Workgroup – will be presented as part of the second symposium, entitled Transitions in a Surgical Career. Professor Thomas Lynch, RCSI Council Member, is Chair of the Workgroup and will co-chair the symposium alongside Ms Margaret O’Donnell, RCSI Council Member. While thriving later in one’s career as well as retirement planning for medical professionals will be discussed, this symposium will also pique the interest of early career-stage surgeons who may be considering a move away from surgical practice. The experiences of Captain Niall Downey, FRCSI and Airline Pilot, will no doubt prove of interest as he shares his story of changing career pathway from cardio-thoracic surgeon to airline pilot. 

Two additional symposia that will be of interest to our community take place on Friday, 9 February. Dr Morgan McMonagle, Consultant Vascular and Trauma Surgeon and Mr Francis Lyons, Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon will co-chair our morning symposium that will unpack and explore What we have Learnt from Crisis Management. This topic aligns with the 99th Abraham Colles Lecture, which will be delivered by Professor David Nott, who will speak on Leaving a Legacy in War Zones.

That afternoon, Ms Christina Fleming, Consultant General and Colorectal Surgeon will co-chair the final symposium of the programme along with Professor Ronan Cahill, RCSI Council Member. With a range of Irish and International experts speaking about the Technology of the Future for Surgery, it will provide much insight and inspiration and will conclude with an update from Professor Cahill on the activities of the workgroup that was tasked with preparing the Future Technology for Irish Surgery report. 

Apart from the stimulating programme of talks, Charter Week 2024 will also provide an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate individual achievements through bestowing honorary Fellowships as well as presenting a number of prestigious medals and awards, among them the RCSI PROGRESS Women in Surgery Fellowship, funded by Johnson & Johnson, which will be awarded to Ms Ola Ahmed.

This will be the final Charter Week of my Presidency. Over the past number of years, it has been my absolute privilege to welcome so many surgical Fellows and Members to the campus and to witness the extraordinary enthusiasm and collective ambition our community has for the future of our profession. I look forward to next week’s programme and the opportunity to see familiar faces, but also to meet so many of our junior colleagues, some for the first time.

In January, while preparations for Charter Week progressed, other activities continued unabated. The first Council Meeting of 2024 took place on 11 January, a Late Career Surgeons Event was held in RCSI on 26 January and our colleagues in Surgical Affairs launched a brand-new MRCS Part B Preparation Course that will take place in Cairo on 21 February.

Looking ahead to February, many of you will be interested in attending the annual Sylvester O’Halloran Perioperative Symposium, which takes place in University Hospital Limerick from 29 February to 2 March. Furthermore, more information regarding the new Fellows and Members Portal will be made available to you in the coming weeks.

All in all, it is a hectic yet exciting time for our community both in Ireland and internationally. As RCSI President, I am hugely appreciative of and heartened by your commitment to our profession as well as your keen sense of collegiality and support.

With thanks and best wishes,

Professor Laura Viani

RCSI President


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