An enormous privilege

David Spalton

Posted: Saturday, October 7, 2017

Professor David Spalton

The ESCRS president is elected for two years: Lisbon is my last meeting before I hand over to Béatrice Cochener on the 1st of January, 2018.

To be President of the ESCRS is of course an enormous privilege, but what does the President actually do? It is in fact very much of an executive role – there is a steady stream of matters to deal with week by week, but with really busy times, of course, before each meeting. Like many jobs it takes more time than you would imagine to do it properly. The Society has a carefully constructed committee structure, all of which has essential functions, but as President I chair (among others) the Programme Committee and the Executive Committee. The Executive is concerned with operational issues. I look on the Programme Committee as the engine room of the Society, because this Committee decides the format and content of our meetings and we stand or fall by their success. Our biggest attendance so far was in Barcelona, when we had more than 8,500 delegates.

This year Lisbon should well exceed this, with more than 9,000 registrations already from 118 countries.

Our summer meeting is now, I think, the largest ophthalmic gathering after the American Academy. This year I am really delighted to see we even have a surgeon from Afghanistan. There surely can’t be a more challenging place to work. I wish him well and hope he enjoys the meeting.

Chairing the Programme Committee is a major commitment for the President. It is a well-honed and very experienced Committee, chosen with complementary surgical interests and representing a diverse range of European countries and opinions, and I am full of admiration for the dedication and commitment of our members and their willingness to give up so much time from their busy professional lives.

We meet four times a year and take up two whole weekends in December and May, in addition to requiring a significant commitment outside the formal meetings. We work together extremely constructively, with specific areas (such as free papers, posters, symposia) allocated to small groups.

Each Congress is carefully reviewed for lessons to be learned, things that went well or could be improved: if you have suggestions or criticisms we are only too willing to hear from you. Planning a meeting starts at least 18 months in advance. Our daily main symposia are a major highlight of the meeting. The topics for Vienna have already been decided and speaker selection is under way: we carefully look at expertise, ability to communicate, as well as balancing national representation.
Our speakers do a great job and I hope that an invitation to speak at such a symposium is a major accolade.

With 16 symposia, 492 free papers, 1,257 posters, 125 courses and 64 wet labs – together with a massive exhibition – we will all be able to go back home with something that is going to change our practice, make us better surgeons and improve the care of our patients.

Béatrice Cochener takes over from me as President in January, and the ESCRS is in safe hands for the future.