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President’s Bulletin: Can you hear me Texas?

Updated on: 07 Jul 2021   First published on 06 Jul 2021

Author:  Dr Alastair McKinlay 

My cousin Chris, who lives in the USA, is unusual, by which I do not mean in any sense “strange”.  He is the most “English” person I know, but is a professor of German studies in Texas, at a university that is predominantly Hispanic, and married to a Californian who is a botanist, and who was “eco-aware” long before Greta Thunberg plaited her pigtails, or was for that matter, even conceived. Chris reads my President’s blogs, which certainly marks him as unusual, although if you have read this far, you also come into the same category.  The point of this preamble being that, thanks to the internet and the digital revolution, everything the BSG posts is public and is visible to anyone, medical or not, anywhere in the world. It is a huge opportunity, but also a big responsibility.  The recent endoscopy webinar had over 500 registrants, some of whom were from abroad, so we are beginning to see the reach of the society extend further.

The BSG is committed to continuously updating and expanding its web educational content. Prof. Reena Sidhu, our previous web editor and now chair of the education committee, made tremendous progress in promoting web education. Her successor, Prof Anjan Dhar, and his two deputy web editors will continue to offer a range of materials from bite-size chunks to archive webinars and conference presentations. Our aim is to give our members their own CPD account, which will automatically record the time that they spend engaging in CPD on our platform, so the figures are available and easily confirmed for appraisal and revalidation.  This is a large piece of work, and we hope to have a progress report by autumn.

At present, BSG guidelines remain free to view and widely available on our website. We do not have plans to change this at present.  The BSG views guidelines as an important part of our charitable objectives and a service to the profession and public that we would want to continue. If you have different views about this, the executive would want to hear from you.

It is interesting that the COVID pandemic has produced such a profound culture change. A few weeks ago, I was able to pay my first visit to the BSG office, the first of my presidency and my first trip to London for 16 months.  Such is the immediacy of TEAMS™, that I felt I already knew most of the staff when in reality I was meeting most of them face-to-face for the first time.  There was a definite excitement about being back in the same shared environment. We can achieve a lot of work with TEAMS™, but undoubtedly creativity is sometimes enhanced by meeting face-to-face.

We are close to finalising the physical side of the BSG office as well. The Board of Trustees, backed unanimously by the Council and the Executive, agreed that staying on in 3 St Andrews Place was the best situation for the present. We are embarking on an extensive renovation with the Royal College of Physicians, or at least as much as we can do within the confines of a grade 1 listed building.  The vision developed by Mark Hacker and the Board is for a more flexible space, with areas where BSG members will be able to connect digitally with work or home, when they are in London.

My trip to London was also the first, and possibly my only opportunity, to try on the chain of office.  I stood briefly outside the BSG office practising a few regal hand waves, much to the astonishment of a few commuters and a passing squirrel.

The annual conference this year is virtual, and registration will open very shortly. The programme looks interesting and exciting. Early registration is advised, and as with BSG Campus, all the talks will be available afterwards to those who have registered. We will also keep registration open for some time after the event. All being well, our annual conference next year will be face-to-face in Birmingham, but I need hardly add that we live in difficult and uncertain times.

Whilst it is wonderful to have hints of a new normality returning, the most recent COVID figures do not make good reading.  In Scotland, the third wave has seen an exponential rise in cases, although thankfully with fewer hospital admissions than occurred in the first wave.  Any big outbreak, however, will always result in some admissions and disruption to the recovery programme.  Even as a Scot, I was delighted to see England’s progression through the Euros. Let us hope that the payment for success is not made in COVID cases, for the sake of the fans and for the country.

It raises the question about how many face-to-face meetings we should be planning in the future. At the moment, we see the BSG as a hybrid organisation for the foreseeable time, with some face-to-face meetings but with the continuation of online working as well.  Distance working is good for the environment and sustainability, meetings on TEAMS™ have been more productive and run to time, but we also think a lot of our members actually prefer them.  Not everyone can spare a whole day to travel to London for a two-hour meeting, and with more virtual work, we have seen a rise in the number of people who want to take part in BSG activities.

Finally, some thanks.

Thank you to everyone who stood in the last round of elections. Congratulations if you have been successful, and please try again if you were not.

Congratulations to 3 of our members who were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

To Cathryn Edwards OBE, further congratulations on becoming the first female Registrar of the Royal College of Physicians in over 400 years.  Let us hope we do not have to wait quite so long in the future!

To Prof. Mike Farthing for being awarded a lifetime achievement award by the UEG.

The Francis Avery Jones prize will soon open, and there are new awards on the way from The Company of Barbers in London and the UK Barrett’s and Oesophageal Registry (UKBOR).

A big thanks to all the staff at the BSG for their loyalty and patience during the pandemic.  No sooner have we returned to the office than it will close again for renovation, but it will open again soon, hopefully by the end of September.

Finally, thank you to the BSG membership whose enthusiasm and support make it all worthwhile.

Stay sharp, stay safe, stay well.

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