12 January 2023

Dear Fellows and Members,

I hope you and your families had a wonderful, restful holiday season and that 2023 brings good health and happiness to you all.

My presidency began in June 2022 and although it feels as if the last six months have flown by, I am pleased by how much has been achieved during that time. We start the year with the good news that our next generation of RCSI Surgery and Emergency Medicine trainees is shaping up well. Interest in our training programmes remains high with 263 Core Surgical Trainee applications (CST) and 114 Core Specialist Trainees in Emergency Medicine applicants (CSTEM) from 39 countries, with 41% of submissions from female applicants and an average age of 31. This bodes well for the planned expansion of our surgical training programmes over the next seven years, a very exciting time to consider a career in surgery.

In December, one of the highlights of the year for me was to lead a delegation, including RCSI Fellows and colleagues, to Windhoek, Namibia to support the exams, graduation and scientific conference of RCSI’s long-term partner, the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA). In 2022, the number of successful graduates doubled to bring the number of new surgical Fellows to 148, increasing the total number of COSECSA Fellows by examination to 778. Almost 90% of COSECSA graduates are retained in their country of training after they graduate, serving their home populations.

I was delighted to present the prestigious Gerald O’Sullivan medal, awarded to the graduate who scores highest across all of the Fellowship exams, to Dr Natalie Umugwaneza, a General Surgery Fellow from Rwanda. I also presented the 2021 medal to Dr Tasimbanashe Masamha, an Orthopaedic Surgeon from Zimbabwe. We have invited both to attend Charter Meeting later this month in celebration of their awards and look forward to welcoming them to Dublin.

As we begin the new year I would like to take this opportunity to offer congratulations and best of luck to to my colleague and Vice President, RCSI, Professor Deborah McNamara on her reappointment as Co-Lead with the National Clinical Programme for Surgery (NCPS) and to Professor Finbarr Condron, who has replaced Mr David Moore as Joint Clinical Lead of the National Clinical Programme in Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery.

The aforementioned Charter Meeting which will take place in just over two weeks, from Saturday, 28 January to Friday, 3 February, is the first event in a very full programme planned for 2023. This year’s Charter Meeting theme is 'Shaping the Future' and the programme includes symposia on 'The Future of Surgery' and 'Technology for Surgeons and the Patient'. Registration is now open here.

If you know of any surgical trainees, young surgeons or medical students with an interest in surgery our 'Becoming a Standout Surgeon' session will be of particular interest to them and will take place on Friday, 3 February as part of the Parallel Group III. Registration is now open here.

During Charter Week, I look forward to bestowing Honorary Fellowships on five very worthy recipients. The 2023 honourees are Dr Vivian McAlister, Dr Ajit K. Sachdeva, Dr Majella Doyle, Professor Richard Irving and Dr John G. Meara.

The first of our Surgical Matters webinars of 2023 will take place on Wednesday, 22 February at 6 pm. The topic is 'Prioritising Conversations around the Emotional Impact of Working in Healthcare', which I’m sure you will agree is very relevant currently, in a post-pandemic, overburdened healthcare system. This webinar will be led by Professor Eva Doherty with a panel of subject matter experts and registration is now open.

We are already busy planning our second 'Doing the Rounds Roadshow visit to the Midlands on Wednesday, 19 April 2023 and I would like to take this opportunity to invite all surgical Fellows and Members, Trainees and NCHDs working in Tullamore, Roscommon, Portlaoise, Nenagh and Ballinasloe, to meet with us so we can listen to your views and hear your concerns about local issues, so we can be fully informed to support you. Registration is now open here.

RCSI recently published timely guidance for patients travelling abroad for surgery, given the significant increase in the number of patients admitted through emergency departments in Ireland with complications of surgery undertaken abroad. The guidelines are aimed at helping people understand and manage the greater risk involved in having an operation in another country and I think they will be very helpful. The guidelines can be downloaded here.

Finally, I wish to address the current crisis in the Irish healthcare system. We cannot overstate the impact that this is having on patient outcomes and on the morale and welfare of healthcare professionals. While this crisis is systemic, we each have a role to play in supporting our colleagues and advocating for our patients. We have a particular responsibility to look out for our younger colleagues who we need to stay in Ireland. Support, comradeship, guidance and kindness – these things make a difference to how we feel about where we work.

We know too that this crisis is being experienced by colleagues beyond Ireland and I urge the same of everyone. Look out for colleagues who are discouraged or distressed. Make sure they know they are valued and that they are part of a team. You might also like to share the link to our Surgical Matters webinar series, which may be helpful and which everyone is welcome to join.

We know that the solutions to this crisis are complex. On your behalf, we will continue to advocate for the measures we believe will help to limit the impact of crises of this nature on scheduled surgical care which will be highlighted and discussed during this year’s Charter Meeting.

I look forward to our continued collaboration in the year ahead and to achieving great things together.

With best wishes for a happy new year.

Professor Laura Viani
RCSI President