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President’s Bulletin: “Virtually” the best yet.

Updated on: 30 Nov 2021   First published on 29 Nov 2021

Author:  Dr Alastair McKinlay 

The BSG Annual Conference is one of the highlights of the Society’s year. It is a great opportunity to meet colleagues, network, conduct business, and get the most up-to-date research and professional knowledge. This year it was virtual as BSG Online, and the early feedback from the meeting is very gratifying.

We have had over 1700 registrations and the opportunity to register remains open until December 10th. The single stream format, without parallel sessions, appears to have allowed people to go to some sessions that they might not have been able to visit normally. As expected, the big sections, endoscopy hepatology and IBD, got big turnouts, but so did the Association of GI Physiologists (AGIP), one of our smaller sections, but with 400 delegates attending their symposium. The secret of success? Getting the content of the session just right. Similarly, SWIG and the trainees and many other groups pulled in very significant audiences.

Which leads to an interesting question. Do we need to be face-to-face at all?

Before people start cancelling their study leave for Birmingham in June 2022, let me reassure members that the executive believes that a mixed offering of virtual and face-to-face events is the way of the future. The annual conference will continue to be a face-to-face event for the foreseeable future, because we believe it is particularly suited for person-to-person interaction. It would be interesting to know how many research, QI, and other projects, begin over lunch or a coffee at the BSG. One reason why I think it is important not to feel obliged to attend every single session.

On the other hand, BSG Campus, our virtual offering, is particularly suited to allow people on-call, who cannot leave for the conference, to get their CPD. It suits members with families and other commitments. We will be providing a mix of events in the future, from monthly webinars to BSG Campus and BSG LIVE (the 2022 face-to-face conference).

Some conference talks, however, remain in the memory long after the event, because they are topical, but also profound and somehow articulate the mood of the Society.  Dame Parveen Kumar’s address to the final plenary session ticked all the boxes. Parveen is a “National Treasure” and a great role model. Interestingly, not a “niche” role model, if you can forgive the term, but a universal example to whom we can all look up to and aspire to follow. The content of her talk was quite difficult to listen to in some respects. The suicide rate amongst doctors is higher than the general population, particularly among women. Many doctors would not encourage their children to enter the profession. Burnout is common, at all stages, and particularly amongst gastroenterologists. Parveen’s passionate injunction to be kind to one another is well taken. Wellbeing is not only an important consideration, but also a worthy concern for a membership organisation like the BSG.

The BSG is actively reviewing its mentoring offering under the direction of Dr Anita Gibbons, our mentoring lead, and Prof Reena Sidhu, the Chair of the Education Committee. Our surveys into workforce and workload are also important sources of data.

Equality, diversity and inclusion are also about wellbeing, and about ensuring that all people have the opportunity to achieve their full potential.  E D & I and wellbeing were never discussed before. In the continuing aftermath of COVID, it is not only legitimate to discuss these matters; it is essential.

Perhaps what we have done so far might seem like “small steps”. Perhaps that criticism is correct. Or alternatively, perhaps the most genuinely important initiatives in life all start out as small steps. As a Chinese proverb says,

“The most difficult step on any journey is the first step.”

Stay safe, stay sharp, stay kind and step forward into 2022 with confidence.

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