“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far… go together.”
The start of a new year brings for most, resolutions and new starts. The BSG is no exception. This year the Society starts the new decade by focusing on the challenges of workforce and training in our specialty and on increasing our contribution to clinical training, education and research in the international setting.
There was no International Committee established in the BSG until 2017. The large number of applicants for that committee should, however, have given us a clue to the enthusiasm for the BSG’s international contribution and of the reciprocal importance to the Society of supporting training, education and research outside of the UK.
There is a general consensus that international partnerships and the opportunity to contribute to international programs of health care, education, and clinical research, are of great value to a National Specialty Society. The principles of good medical science and specialty practice are the same in the global context as they are nationally, even if the vehicles of delivery differ. Additionally, our support for BSG members as they pursue international career paths remains an important membership benefit to our multi-disciplinary professional group. Most significantly, we have an opportunity through the exchange of information and experience, to help shape global health initiatives in partnership with others. A strategic program of informed partnership with clear deliverables to reciprocal mutual benefit is required if we are to achieve this. To this end, the International Strategy Document sets out both the BSG’s strategic intent and the logistics and measurables of delivery.
This starts to bring together a Society approach, zoning areas of BSG activity, accepting that the objectives of international engagement will differ from zone to zone. Not all partnerships can be run in parallel: some will need to be staged as successful projects achieve independent sustainability, new partnerships can be created. The result will be a networked professional international community within the BSG membership. As evidence of the value international activity has already delivered, we need only to look to 3 areas in which we hope to continue to consolidate our current operations:
Much of what the Society could add to the highly successful MOU, signed originally under the presidency of Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, is the ability to work collegiately with the East Central and Southern African College of Physicians, to help resource post-graduate specialty training in Sub Saharan Africa providing ‘an incubator’ for post-graduate training and research in-country.
“We have hugely valued the 3-year training grant from the BSG, supporting our WGO International gastroenterology training centre, that has enabled not only the endoscopy technical training that was originally envisaged, but has allowed us to expand into broader-based postgraduate clinical training in relevant conditions. This has culminated in our two annual National Liver Disease conferences, and subsequent contributions to the National Strategy for viral hepatitis. An impact that the BSG should be immensely proud of supporting.”
– Professor Melita Gordon, MLW centre (Malawi Liverpool University, Wellcome Trust), Blantyre
Likewise, the MOU signed in 2019 with Bangladesh, offers a similar opportunity to influence and support the delivery of public health care in the newly opened Endoscopy and GI hospital in Dhaka. Linked to a programme of QI, the BSG MOU has impacted at national government level. In February this year, I will join BSG colleagues in a follow-up visit which will permit the reinforcement of the BSG’s commitment to specialty GI and hepatology training globally and allow face to face discussions with multiple stakeholders on how this can be best further developed in this part of the Indian subcontinent. Separately, I have supported, on behalf of the BSG, the educational programme at the Pakistan Society of Gastroenterology & GI Endoscopy Congress linking virtually to their conference with key messages of support for mentorship, specialty training and clinical practice guidelines.
In being invited to lecture on the role of National Societies in shaping specialty research, I was able to help reinforce the remarkable impact Emad El Omar, as Editor-in-Chief of Gut, has had on shaping the dissemination and support of scientific research in the Asia Pacific.
“It is absolutely essential that we capitalise on and promote our links and impact in the Asia Pacific region, especially in China. Gut is enormously popular and respected in the region. Submissions to Gut from the Asia Pacific remain the highest of all geographic areas with a similar acceptance rate to submissions from Europe and the rest of the world.”
My personal experience of international work was in South Africa: I, therefore, can’t help but start and finish with an African proverb.
One of the things I learnt working in Cape Town was the importance of embedding training programmes in local communities, influencing national networks and government where possible.
It is my strong belief that this proverb has resonance for the BSG in our global activities, as it does for BSG members locally and nationally.
“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far… go together”