4 April 2022

Dear Fellows and Members,

How much can happen in a few weeks. When last I wrote we had learned of the invasion of Ukraine and the tragedy of history repeating itself in the great plains of Eastern Europe. The outbreak of war and the long effects of COVID-19 will sadly change our way of life for decades to come. War brings only savagery and economic ruin. The RCSI community will support humanitarian relief for the people of Ukraine through contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Irish Red Cross and UNICEF. On 25 March, RCSI held a day of support for the people of Ukraine and established a GoFundMe site which raised over €9,000 and to which Fellows and Members may wish to contribute.

It has been a very busy month on campus which is fully open, but with a requirement to wear facemasks in public areas. With Council’s approval I was able to sign the contract for Project Connect – a major investment and building project on the St Stephen’s Green campus that will see a new building linking 26 York Street and St Stephen’s Green on the site of the current Ardilaun Block A office block. The new building, designed by Henry J. Lyons, the architects who also designed 26 York Street, will bring the modern face of RCSI into full public view and provide accommodation for the new School of Population Health, expand facilities for the National Surgical Training Centre as well as much needed space for University expansion. Read more about our exciting and transformative journey here.

This month RCSI is delighted to welcome Professor Edward Gregg as the Foundation Head of the School of Population Health. Professor Gregg is currently a Wolfson Fellow in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Imperial College London. Previously Professor Gregg led a multi-disciplinary public health science unit in the Division of Diabetes Translation at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He has particular interests in the factors driving recent trends in the diabetes epidemic and the impact of lifestyle interventions and related health policies on diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and ageing-related outcomes. His experience and multidisciplinary expertise will energise and direct the new school which will bring together many existing disciplines within RCSI and prove a valuable resource in support of surgical research.

As President I was also able to sign a formal agreement to progress a Joint Education Initiative between RCSI School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Science and Soochow University in China. Soochow is one of China’s oldest and most prestigious universities. RCSI will join Soochow University in delivery of four masters programmes in a partnership that is expected to grow and in time offer considerable opportunity for research and interaction with industry.

Work is about to commence on a new education facility at the RCSI campus in Connolly Hospital. This marks a significant commitment by RCSI to the Connolly Campus and will greatly improve facilities for the Graduate Entry Programme in Medicine and the Physician Associate Masters Programme. I was delighted to join an Tánaiste, Dr Leo Varadkar, Ms Barbara Keogh Dunne, General Manager, Connolly Hospital and RCSI colleagues in a tree planting ceremony to mark the commencement of the project.

Preparations are well underway for the Charter Meeting which will be held on 20-22 April. This year has actually proven more difficult to organise given the unpredictability of the COVID pandemic. We had hoped to have a traditional fully in person meeting here in St Stephens Green in February, but by November it became clear that that might not be possible. So we postponed the meeting to April in the hope and expectation that the worst of the pandemic had passed. Although COVID-19 is still very much with us, social restrictions have been eased such that the meeting can proceed. Please register here for Charter Meeting 2022.

Our positive experience with a virtual format last year has prompted us to adopt a hybrid format for this year’s meeting. The Wednesday and Thursday meetings will be fully online, while the Friday meeting will be hybrid, allowing colleagues to meet in the College and yet retain the advantages of remote access allowing Fellows, Members, Alumni and friends from around the globe to participate. I extend a warm welcome to all of you on line and hope that for those of you who cannot join in person on Friday, circumstances will allow meeting on campus in future years.

With best wishes,

Professor P. Ronan O'Connell
President, RCSI