May 2024

2 May 2024

Dear Fellows and Members,

Here in Dublin, the month of April heralded brighter evenings and as we look ahead to May there is a sense that summer is just around the corner – however fleeting it may be due to the Irish climate! I am sure I am not alone in feeling that the weeks are racing by, and so, I always enjoy the opportunity that this monthly update provides for reflection while also looking ahead to future events, activities and developments.

Recently I learned that the niece of Barry Holmes, a staff member in RCSI, had undergone a cochlear impact operation 18 years ago at the NHIVRC. I was delighted to be able to invite Barry and his niece Ellen as well as the wider family including Ellen’s mother Clodagh and grandmother Kay, to meet with me in RCSI. Meanwhile, last week, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting a younger patient of the NHIVRC, three-year old Seb Copeland. Seb’s mother Avril, an alumna of RCSI and indeed recipient of an RCSI Alumni Award in 2019, was profuse in her praise of the Centre and the professionalism and kindness of my colleague Professor Peter Walshe (FRCSI, 1999) who carried out Seb’s surgery. Avril had kindly shared her story, which you can read in this edition of Surgical Bulletin.

Meeting these patients, I was struck by how incredibly rewarding the work of our community is – through our work we can bring about real, tangible and positive change in the lives of others. It made me feel both proud and grateful for the opportunity I have been provided to represent you all as President of RCSI for the last number of years.

In late April, I was also very proud and honoured to receive a Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. It meant a great deal to me to be recognised in this way in Glasgow and by my colleagues. In receiving the Fellowship, I was reminded of the occasions over the past two years, when I have been privileged to bestow Honorary Fellowships on behalf of RCSI. I treasure the opportunities I had to meet with and honour outstanding individuals during my tenure. The stature and impact of our Honorary Fellowships is of huge importance to the College and our community is deeply enriched by their membership and contributions. 

While the election of a new RCSI Council and the end of my Presidency approaches, I look forward to a busy period in May as I travel to Australia and New Zealand. During my time in Australia, I will visit Macquarie University in Sydney to meet scientists at the University and to visit the Cochlear Centre which was recently visited by the Irish Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, TD. I will also attend the Royal Australasia College of Surgeons in New Zealand where I will take part in conferring ceremonies and meetings.  

One of the forthcoming events that will be of interest to many of you is the International Surgical Conference of the Association of Surgeons in Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI) that takes place in Belfast from 8-10 May. Those of you that are in attendance will no doubt enjoy the Robert Smith Lecture on Thursday, 9 May, which will be delivered by Professor James Paul O’Neill (FRCSI, 2010) on the topic of ‘Horrid Butchery’ to Conservative Surgery – The Evolution of Well Differentiated Thyroid Cancer. Furthermore, that evening attendees can mingle, chat and connect at an RCSI reception that will be hosted by Professor Deborah McNamara, Vice President, RCSI in the Hilton Hotel, Belfast from 6pm-7.30pm.

Towards the end of May, I look forward to welcoming a group of surgeons representing the Association of Women Surgeons (AWS), who will be travelling to Dublin from the United States for the AWS Meeting that will take place from 9am-1pm on Friday, 31 May 2024 in the Albert Lecture Theatre, RCSI Dublin. The theme of the meeting is ‘Nurturing our Future – the Role of Mentorship and Sponsorship’ and there is an excellent programme of talks and networking opportunities planned for the day which you can read here.

I am mindful that this will be the final update that I provide to you as President of RCSI. It has truly been the privilege of a lifetime to hold this role and to represent and advocate on your behalf. From the outset of my presidency in June 2022, I felt the need to focus on the theme of ‘Shaping the Future’. I was purposeful in choosing this as my focus at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic was receding but while we were still dealing with the aftershocks both personally and professionally at individual as well as systemic level. It was also a time when we had just witnessed the outbreak of war in Europe, were looking to an uncertain future and struggling to keep apace unrelenting digital progression.

Sadly, two years later, challenges remain on many fronts with health systems globally coming under significant pressure due to a plethora of factors that threaten safe patient care. However, as Séamus Heaney, poet and Honorary Fellow of RCSI, said ‘even if the hopes you started out with are dashed, hope has to be maintained.’ I personally feel hugely hopeful as I have witnessed first-hand the commitment of our community to come together to anticipate, to discuss, to plan and to proactively address many of these challenges. This has been reflected by and encapsulated in the ongoing projects spearheaded by members of RCSI Council, the work of RCSI’s Department of Surgical Affairs, the efforts of our specialty trainers and examiners as well as the attendances at the Millin Meeting and Charter Week annually.

I will always be thankful that I have been in a position to bring so many of our community together, to provide an opportunity to reflect and connect. In this regard, the value of connection cannot be overestimated – it is vitally important that we take care of ourselves and take care of one another. I treasure the chances I have had to meet with so many of you and look forward to continuing to do so into the future.

With thanks and gratitude.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Laura Viani

RCSI President