A letter from the Immediate Past President

Stefan De Hert
Stefan.dehert@ugent.be

In January, I stepped down as President of  The European Society of Anaesthesiology after serving 2 years as its President and as a member, committee member, chair and Board member since its foundation. I am fortunate to have been able to be so deeply involved in the evolvement of this Society, and particularly fortunate to have made many lasting connections and friendships. The ESA’s commitment to the anaesthesiologist and our field mirror my own values for the advancement of this great profession we all share and I want to take this opportunity to thank all those I  had the pleasure to work with and serve these many years.

This occasion affords me the opportunity to review a little of the Society’s history as I have seen it unfold, focus on some of our important initiatives during this period, comment on a few of the many people with whom I am especially happy to have been associated, and conclude with a brief look toward the future of the ESA.

During my tenure I have seen the ESA’s programmes and projects expand impressively, including our staff and secretariat who has grown over the years as we continue to recruit bright and skilled staff. Our expanding exam centres, our collaborative work and agreements with other societies, and our ability to leverage our knowledge of the community of anaesthesiology and intensive care (and the people within it), allows us to have a depth of impact that would not exist without such positive collaboration.

We are constantly expanding and growing both within Europe and beyond. We are growing our international collaborations with societies, such as the WFSA and have signed memoranda of understanding with the US, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil (Sao Paulo), Korea, Mexico, Japan, China, Argentina, with more to come in 2020.

Local societies, on a national level, and the ESA, on a global level, share a common goal of advancing the field of anaesthesia. We are both committed to disseminating scientific knowledge, acting in the interests of patients and representing the community of anaesthesia professionals.

If one looks back at the almost 15 years of the current ESA, it is obvious that we have taken a key position in research, education, and patient safety issues. Our work in education is just one of many examples of the fruits of such a focus. The exams had record-breaking numbers this year. This year’s OLA had 1687 registrations (an all-time record), 142 registered centres (an all-time record) across 38 countries (another all-time record).

EDAIC Part I in 2018 had 2900 registrations, and now – for 2019 – we have opened a centre for the first time in 5 new countries: Belarus, Lithuania, Slovakia, Ukraine, and United Arab Emirates. EDAIC Part II 2019 broke another one of our records with 1175 registrations.

We currently have 2 to 3 new clinical trial network studies per year. As this is a network of centers that cooperate to perform a variety of studies, proposed by individual ESA members and accepted by our research committee based on novelty and quality, this is also a huge achievement for the entire profession to be able to facilitate this on international level.

Patient safety is a very large part of our focus for the ESA. Next year in Barcelona we will be celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the Helsinki Declaration. To mark this special occasion, we are organising the Patient Safety Policy Summit in March 2020, in Brussels Belgium, where medical societies representing healthcare professionals involved in perioperative and surgical multidisciplinary teams will come together with patient representatives to discuss effective ways of improving health outcomes and patient safety across Europe. We are very much anticipating the outcome of this important meeting. The Patient Safety Committee is also currently working on developing more educational opportunities to our members, so please keep an eye out for future developments.

During my presidency, my aim was to start conversations, work towards change, and elevate the overall standards of a number of very timely issues such as gender equality, sustainability, and second victim.

Regarding gender equity, we successfully created a new task force in 2018 that lead to a committee for 2020, with the important role of taking a closer look at where we stand in the profession, and to develop strategies to increase female representation  within our society, and how we can continue to effect positive changes.

One of the first tasks of the Task Force was to better understand the lack of proper female representation in both general leadership positions and leadership positions within the ESA. A survey was sent out to better understand the obstacles and expectations of our community, both from the female and male perspective, and how we can start making changes internally.

This has immediately resulted in not only an addition of women in leadership and faculty positions within the ESA, but also a culture change that has created meaningful dialogues, more open discussions on how to consciously and sustainably diversify our leadership, and set the stage for long-term, positive change. The strategies that come from a diversified body, where all the members feel represented and heard, will result in greater opportunities – professionally and personally – for both our members and the Society as a whole.

For us, sustainability is not just about the environment, which is also a focus of ours, but also refers to gender balance and personal well-being, which is heavily needed in our profession. Our greater goal is to create a holistic approach to the profession that focuses on creating a better future for our members, delegates and the entire community.

When it comes to being more environmentally conscious both in and out of the OR, there is still much room for improvement. As anesthesia care providers, we have worked continuously on the improvement of quality of patient care and safety. I think time has come to add environmental stewardship to our list of core interests and contributions to medicine, so we encourage you to continue the conversation with your peers, with your national society, and with us. Only working together can we affect any change.

I also note the importance of my successor, Prof. Dr. Kai Zacharowski, as incoming President of the Board, in continuing to evolve the mission and leadership of the ESA during the next few years. His platforms, ideas, commitment, energy, and dedication to anaesthesiology and intensive care will continue to push the ESA to the forefront of our field and serve the needs of our community as we continue to look towards the future.

I could not have had the experience I have had without wonderful and unfailing support of the CEO and secretariat over the many years. The longevity of our staff is testimony to their loyalty and dedication to the ESA and its mission. I have enjoyed working with an extremely able executive director: Marc Gheeraert, who will be retiring this year and stepping down from his role in January as well. I wish you all the best in this new and exciting stage of your life, Marc!

On a similar note, I want to warmly welcome our new CEO starting on January 1, Cathy Weynants. Cathy has a master’s in biology from the University of Leuven and attended several management schools such as Vlerick, INSEAD and Harvard. She has gathered quite a bit of professional experience from her time at Novo Nordisk and UCB Pharma in marketing, HR, business and general management positions. Please join me in welcoming her and wishing her a successful career at the ESA.

Our collective great work and achievements would not be possible without the many incredible volunteers who make up the leadership of the ESA. It has been a hallmark of our Society to develop and maintain long-standing commitments to programmes that enhance our work and visibility. There is much we can learn from our developing and developed expertise in the community.

I thank you all for allowing me to be a part of this great Society over the years and I look forward to seeing the ESA continue to serve, support, and advance our community and profession.