14 July 2022

Dear Fellows and Members,

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” – Abraham Lincoln

It is my very great pleasure to welcome you to my first message since becoming President of RCSI. I feel privileged to have been elected RCSI President, at one of the most exciting times in the history of our college. As the COVID-19 pandemic recedes and as we get back to meeting face-to-face and travelling without restrictions, we encounter a world that has changed utterly.

Events threaten to overtake us. A war in Europe; an uncertain viral future; an unrelenting digital progression and a damaged Irish health service. But we have been here before. Our forebears have recovered from greater devastation, and we have every confidence in the generation of surgeons that we have tutored to restore our healthcare fortunes in the shortest possible time.

Shaping the future

With your support and endorsement I have decided to make 'Shaping the Future' the theme of my presidency and this will also be the theme of the Charter Day Meeting in 2023. This meeting will provide an ideal platform for our national and international Fellows, Members, Alumni colleagues and associates to display the awesome advances of technology, immunology and oncology in artificial intelligence and in informatics.

It used to be said, of old, that knowledge doubled every century. But this has dramatically increased and now the world’s knowledge doubles every 70 days. Who can keep pace with this rate of change? But we must try. The technologies that are transforming healthcare are so complex that we must understand them so we can control and direct them to deliver the safest and most effective patient care. And we need to ensure RCSI trainees have access to every aspect of this healthcare revolution.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in unprecedented numbers of patients having consultation and operations cancelled. It is critical that we redress this deficit and ensure that we are back on schedule as soon as possible. RCSI, through its programmes in surgery, can help reduce these waiting lists. We are ideally positioned to give valuable advice to all of those involved in delivering healthcare.

My experience in establishing the National Cochlear Implant Programme helped me build a strong working relationship with the Department of Health and the HSE. It provided me with valuable lessons in political discourse; experience which I intend to employ in positively engaging with both over the next two years and commit the support of the RCSI to all positive initiatives. The committees that I have established will also be very happy to lend their expertise in any way that they can.

It is worth reminding ourselves again why surgery is the most exciting and rewarding of careers; it affords us the unparalleled privilege of being able to care for our human fellow travellers.

The next generation

Affiliate Membership of RCSI is now available to all medical students, interns, non-consultant hospital doctors and junior and foundation doctors interested in pursuing a career in surgery, or those already on surgical training programmes. RCSI Affiliate Members have access to a wide range of resources aimed at supporting and supplementing their personal, practical, academic and professional development through the new RCSI Affiliate member portal.

Together we must provide the highest standards of surgical training to our young graduates and foster surgical professional excellence. We must ensure that those whose training has been disrupted by the pandemic are supported, and any deficits in their skills and experience corrected, before they exit the programme. And I will advocate on behalf of our future surgeons to ensure they gain a world-class training experience.

It is important to focus on keeping our young doctors and surgeons in Ireland and to ensure we support them in their training, in their work practice and in their choice and preparation for overseas fellowships. To this end, I have established a new committee dedicated to consultant surgical recruitment and retention, which will explore a range of options including proleptic appointments and mid-career fellowships.

But I am also concerned about our senior surgeons. It takes many years of training and practice for surgeons to reach the pinnacle of their careers. While many are anxious to continue delivering patient care well into their senior years, some are concerned about arduous on-call obligations. I will set up a working group to examine how we can best support our senior surgical colleagues and benefit from their expertise, wisdom and experience, while avoiding risk and surgeon burnout.

Sustainability in surgery is becoming an important issue and the theatre is the hospital carbon hotspot. Together, we must seek ways to reduce our hospitals' carbon footprint. We must visit again the roles of reusable and biodegradable technologies and examine again the areas where conservative management provides safer alternatives to routine surgery.

Moving forward

Looking forward, we have lots of exciting plans for 2022 and beyond. I am delighted that RCSI has officially begun construction of Project Connect at St Stephen's Green in Dublin. This campus development project will provide vital infrastructure for pioneering health sciences research and innovation, as well as creating a space for local community engagement.

Scheduled for completion in 2025, this will be home to the new RCSI School of Population Health, the RCSI Graduate School of Healthcare Management, and a virtual reality surgical training space for the National Surgical Training Centre. And I am looking forward to opening the Connolly project for Graduate Entry Medicine students in 2024.

I would like to thank and congratulate Professor P. Ronan O’Connell, immediate past-President of RCSI, who showed great leadership for our Fellows and Members throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

And I welcome Professor Deborah McNamara as Vice-President. We are fortunate to have such a dedicated and committed Council and I look forward to working with every Council member to innovate, lead and deliver with me on the challenges outlined above.

I look forward to working closely with our Fellows and Members and to meeting many of you in person over the term of my presidency.

Best wishes,

Professor Laura Viani
President, RCSI