16 February 2023

Dear Fellow and Members,

I write at the end of our first full in-person Charter Week since 2020, a stimulating programme of talks and events under the umbrella of Shaping the Future, which as you know is the theme I have chosen for my presidency.

It was wonderful to be together again and to see the familiar faces, and also to meet so many of our junior colleagues, some for the first time. The week was a great success and it was my absolute privilege to welcome so many surgical Fellows and Members, Alumni and guests to the RCSI campus.

I came away from the week heartened by the extraordinary enthusiasm our surgical community has for its work, by how open we are to new ideas, and have such keen collective ambition for the future of our profession. I sensed a real generosity of spirit around the meeting, and a genuine determination on the part of our most senior members to share knowledge and practical advice with younger colleagues. At a difficult time for all of us working in healthcare, the meeting gave me cause for optimism.

Another reason for optimism was the launch of the RCSI Surgery for Ireland report by my fellow Council Member and RCSI Vice-President Professor Deborah McNamara. This proposes new networks for emergency surgery and sets out a series of recommendations aimed at ensuring equitable regional access to higher-quality emergency surgical services, while ensuring smoother transitions of care for people who require complex emergency surgery. Key to the report are recommendations designed to help create a working environment that is optimal for the training, recruitment and retention of staff. This is a very important piece of work by the College and I urge you all to read the full report here. RCSI welcomed The Irish Times endorsement of the report in their editorial here.

Charter Week began with the Annual Meeting of the Irish Surgical Training Group, with Ms Jessica Ryan, President, ISTG, introducing a group of trainee surgeons to discuss their experience of RCSI Fellowships and how they try to achieve work-life balance. We also had a thought-provoking debate around surgical specialisation and whether it has gone too far. It was a pleasure to spend the morning with such a talented and impressive group of surgical trainees.

The session concluded with the Bosco O’Mahony Lecture, ‘Irish Surgery – A Discipline in Evolution: Implications for Training and Practice’, delivered most eloquently by RCSI Council Member, Professor Michael Kerin.

A highlight of the week for me was bestowing Honorary Fellowships on Dr Vivian McAlister, Dr Ajit K. Sachdeva, Dr Majella Doyle, Professor Richard Irving and Dr John G. Meara, and welcoming our two Gerald O’Sullivan medal winners, Dr Natalie Umugwaneza, a General Surgery Fellow from Rwanda, and Dr Tasimbanashe Masamha, an Orthopaedic Surgeon from Zimbabwe.

Internationally renowned surgeon, Dr John G. Meara, a director of Harvard Global Surgery, also delivered a brilliant Johnson & Johnson lecture on the topic 'Allies, Advocates and Change Agents'.

Our Becoming a Standout Surgeon session, chaired by Professor David Healy, was a popular event attended by young surgeons, surgical trainees and medical students with an interest in surgery. The expert panel shared practical tips gained from their personal experience, and presented on the resources available to students and trainees when they become RCSI Affiliate Members.

We were lucky to have some exceptional speakers this year. Professor Shirley Potter of UCD delivered a fascinating 45th Millin Lecture on ‘Malignant Melanoma- An Unlikely Poster Child for Personalised Cancer Treatment' . Professor Potter said she was honoured to be the seventh female surgeon and the first plastic and reconstruction surgeon to give the lecture. Surgical otolaryngology head and neck surgeon Dr Luc Morris from Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Centre delivered the 98th Abraham Colles Lecture on ‘The Cobra Effect: How COVID-19, Immunology and Surgical History can Help us Understand Indolent Cancers’. A self confessed 'proud hibernophile', Dr Morris said he set out to give a talk that Abraham Colles, a polymath, “might have found interesting”.

Orla Tinsley was the first patient advocate to give the Carmichael Lecture. This year marked the 30th in its history. Tinsley, a cystic fibrosis sufferer who has had a double lung transplant, spoke movingly on the topic of ‘What Good Looks Like From a Patient’s Perspective’ and on the uniting of “humanity that occurs between practitioner and patient” when doctors are connected to their patients. “Some doctors have to work on it,” she said, “and when you are disconnected you make mistakes.”

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

Our next Doing the Rounds Roadshow will visit the Midlands on Wednesday, 19 April 2023 and I hope surgical Fellows and Members, Trainees and NCHDs working in Tullamore, Roscommon, Portlaoise, Nenagh and Ballinasloe will meet with us in Tullamore so we can listen to your views and hear your concerns about local issues. By being fully informed, we will be able to support you better. Registration is now open here.

I look forward to seeing you all more frequently in 2023 at the events we have planned for the year ahead.

With best wishes,

Professor Laura Viani
RCSI President