4 October 2021

Dear Fellows and Members,

September has been a busy month with the beginning of the academic year. The brief respite from committee meetings, emails, Zoom and MS Teams, so welcome in August, seems long past. RCSI Council was able to meet face to face for the first time in 18 months. Social distancing regulations dictated that the meeting took place in College Hall and not the Council Chamber. Notwithstanding the restrictions, it was wonderful to meet colleagues in person and to be able to engage in social dialogue as well as College business. Nevertheless, experience since March 2020 has shown that much day to day committee work can be conducted on-line using new conferencing platforms obviating the need for travel to the College campus. The new normal is likely to entail many fewer face to face meetings, however it is clear that social interaction is essential to foster collaboration and to build and maintain a productive working environment. With that in mind, Council will meet virtually in October and November, but plans to again meet in person in December.

The surgical academic year began in the first week in September with the Sir Peter Freyer Symposium in NUIG. The meeting began with a ‘Dragons Den’ session in which five research proposals were presented by members of the Irish Surgical research Collaborative. The standard was extraordinarily high and all involved deserve great credit. Congratulations to Czara Kennedy and colleagues who presented the winning research protocol ‘Peri-operative thromboprophylaxis in patients undergoing bariatric surgery: a prospective, randomised control trial evaluating anti-Xa levels and low molecular weight heparin’. The standard of research presented at the plenary session was extemporary and would have graced any academic meeting. Congratulations to the winner of the Freyer medal, Dr. Ola Ahmed, who presented her research on ‘Antioxidant Mechanisms in Discarded Liver Allografts’. The 46th Sir Peter Freyer Lecture by Dr Mike Ryan of WHO was followed by an informal interview with Prof Michael Kerin who is to be congratulated on the success of the meeting.

The 30th Waterford Surgical October Meeting will take place on Saturday, 9 October. Prof Simon Cross and his colleagues have once again put together a great programme with the theme “Robotics and Innovation in Surgery”. The hybrid programme will feature talks ranging from image-guided neurosurgery to virtual reality augmented orthopaedic surgery. The Gordon Watson Lecture will be delivered by Professor The Lord Darzi of Denham, Director of the Institute of Global Health at Imperial College, London. Professor Darzi is a graduate of RCSI and a world-renowned speaker on health policy and innovation. Registration is on-line at www.wsom.ie.

The Competency Model for Skills Training in Gastro-intestinal Endoscopy or STEPS programme (Skills Training for Endoscopic Procedures) was launched on September 30th - see launch here. The model has been developed by the National Endoscopy Training Committee and was featured in the Wednesday evening Webinar on 8th September - Evolution of Endoscopy Webinar. The model proposes a staged approach to endoscopy training very much in keeping with the new intercollegiate training curriculum in Surgery. The model is endorsed by both RCSI and RCPI and marks an important evolution in multidisciplinary training. All those engaged in performing endoscopy, either as a trainer or as a trainee should familiarise themselves with the process.

Planning continues for the Charter Meeting February 1-5 and will incorporate the Millin Meeting and Millin Lecture. Congratulations to Associate Professor Joseph Butler, Orthopaedic Surgeon at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital on being selected to present the 2022 Millin Lecture on ‘The Evolution of Spine Surgery: a paradigm shift to precision medicine’. My personal thanks also to the three other candidates whose proposals were of a very high standard and I hope that they will consider applying next year.

As I indicated in my last newsletter, the Presidents of the four Surgical Royal Colleges are concerned regarding access to scheduled surgical care in both the UK and Ireland. As a consequence of COVID waiting lists have substantially increased while delivery of scheduled care continues at levels lower than in 2019. Clinicians in every discipline are seeing the consequences of delayed diagnosis and advanced presentations. The situation in Northern Ireland is of even greater concern where COVID has resulted in a 46% drop in theatre activity and a 50% decrease in outpatient activity. Nearly 450,000 people in NI are on a waiting list for either a first appointment with a consultant or for admission for surgery. The Presidents of the four Surgical Royal Colleges have agreed to use every opportunity to support the surgical community in NI and to highlight this dangerous situation to the NI Executive and the UK Government. We will continue to advocate on an Intercollegiate basis.

The regular Fellows and Members webinar series recommenced in September with an outstanding update on Understanding and Managing Sepsis. All engaged in front line care should avail of the opportunity to update themselves with the new guidelines for managing sepsis and familiarise themselves with the important differences in presentation between children and adults.

The annual Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons will unfortunately be a virtual event for the second year. Our congratulations to Professor Oscar Traynor on the award of an Honorary Fellowship of the American College, a well-deserved honour. The RCSI Fellows and Members Office have organized a virtual ‘Coffee and Connect’ meeting for our North American Alumni which will take place on Monday, 25 October and and registration is available here RCSI Coffee and Connect. We will be joined by Dr Julie Freischlag, ACS vice-President and RCSI Fellows Conor Delaney, Hilary Sanfey, Noel Williams, Nicolas Mouawad and John Monson in what promises to be an interesting and I hope entertaining opportunity to network. I am very grateful to Catherine Jordan who has recently joined RCSI as Membership Manager for Fellows and Members and Jenelle Sherlock, Engagement Marketing Executive in the Fellows and Members Office for putting the programme together.

As RCSI President I am continually heartened by the collegiality and support of the Council, Fellows and Members. All have worked beyond reasonable expectation in the interests of patient care. Resilience is essential, but so too is minding oneself and avoiding burnout. Reflections in RCSI’s, ‘Positive Ageing booklet’ published last week go to the very heart of the RCSI community spirit and transcends all ages, roles, and nationalities and demonstrates the depth and diversity of the RCSI community. I would urge you to click here Positive Ageing Booklet and enjoy a collection of inspirational stories, reflections and poignant memories of previous generations.

Best wishes

P. Ronan O'Connell