AASNS Continental Society Reports
Basant Misra & Wan Tew Seow
AASNS: The Last Decade
The year 2020 has been a terrible year. However, the journey leading up to 2020 has been nothing short of remarkable for neurosurgery in our continent and our continental society, the Asian Australasian Society of Neurological Surgeons (AASNS). AASNS has played a significant role in the advancement of the discipline and has initiated educational activities in earnest to improve the standard of neurosurgery in our continent. It all started in 2010 during the Presidency of Dr. Yong Kwang Tu, when he formed an Educational Committee and asked me to chair it. We had the first AASNS Education Course in Agra, India in 2010. The initiative continued under the Presidency of Dr. Andrew Kaye (2011-15) and mine (2015-19) and is continuing with renewed vigor under Dr. Wan Tew Seow, the current President.
Since 2010, our Education Committee has been conducting 6-7 Education courses in different regions of our continent. Asia is a vast continent, comprising 60% of the world’s population, under the care of 60% of the world’s neurosurgeons. We have in our continent the most developed neurosurgery centres, and also centres without basic neurosurgery facilities, with both types of centres in the same country in some instances. Hence, the education courses were tailored to the region’s needs rather than maintaining a uniform curriculum.
As trauma was a major problem, we also formed a Neurotrauma Committee under the Chairmanship of Dr Peter Reily. In response to an expressed desire for guidelines suited to developing regions, the Neurotrauma Committee prepared a document setting out basic steps in neurotrauma management from the site of injury to the phase of rehabilitation. Another unique feature of our courses was the time committed by the Faculty. The Faculty traveled on their own costs and volunteered their expertise. No fees were required to be paid to the society, and not only that, even member societies do not have to pay any membership fees to the AASNS!
I did a survey of our member societies some years back regarding the status of neurosurgery and the needs in their country. One of the recurring themes was the need for more hands-on courses and fellowships for young neurosurgeons (YNS). Most neurosurgery leaders informed us of the regional inequality of neurosurgery services in their country - most neurosurgeons being centered in major cities. Hence, we started organizing hands-on courses, offered fellowships for YNS in major tertiary centres in our region, and started organizing courses in remote areas.
The Asian Australasian Congress of Neurological Surgery (AACNS) is the main congress of the AASNS. In the last decade, we have had 3 highly successful Congresses: 2011, Taipei (Yong Kwang Tu); 2015, Jeju Island (Kyu Sung Lee); and the last one 2019 December in Mumbai by me. Incidentally, our continental congress at the end of 2019 was the last major international neurosurgery congress before the COVID-19 pandemic created havoc.
The 15th AACNS in Mumbai was a joint meeting with the 68th Annual Conference of The Neurological Society of India (NSI) and the International Meningioma Society (IMS) Congress, AANSIM 2019. It was held at the Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel, Powai, Mumbai, India December 5 to 8, 2019. The theme of the Congress was “Towards One World”. The meeting was an ideal platform to celebrate 100 years of neurological surgery. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) and the European Association of Neurosurgical Societies (EANS) participated as Guest Societies. In addition, the 40th Annual Conference of Indian Neuroscience Nurses was also jointly organized along with the AANSIM 2019 Meeting.
We also supported a large number of young neurosurgeons with complimentary registration and accommodation. This was also probably the first time in the history of a continental meeting that all Administrative Council (AC) members of WFNS contributed to the meeting as Faculty. Participants in AACNS 2019 numbered 1550. Delegates and Faculty from 40 countries across all continents and countries participated in the Congress. The AACNS 2019 was an excellent meeting with very high-quality academic content and discussion, significantly large number of participations from all across the Globe and in true sense a World Neurosurgery Meeting.
The Presidency passed on to Dr. Wan Tew Seow, past AASNS Secretary, at the conclusion of the meeting. I am confident that Dr Seow will lead AASNS to much greater heights and a brighter future.
Dr Basant Misra, Past President, AASNS
AASNS: 2020 and Onwards
I was handed the mandate of the Presidency of the AASNS, the continental society for neurosurgeons in Asia and Australasia, at the end of the AACNS in Mumbai, December 2019. In less than 3 months, before the new AASNS Administrative Committee had settled in, COVID-19 struck, the neurosurgical world changed, and the world went into lockdown due to the pandemic.
The neurosurgery services in many affected countries stopped as hospitals and their ICUs became overwhelmed by the large number of COVID-19 cases. Several neurosurgeons in Asia even lost their lives to the virus. Fortunately over time, hospitals have become more prepared, and it is almost business as usual in many Asian and Australasian neurosurgical units today.
In this new normal, what I dare say has improved, is the state of neurosurgical education in Asia. In place of the few physical neurosurgical meetings held yearly in Asia, numerous neurosurgery webinars, held monthly and in some cases weekly, have sprung up, with many originating from Asia. Whether they originated from Asia or elsewhere, these webinars have enabled neurosurgeons and neurosurgical trainees alike free access to a plethora of high quality lectures given by experienced neurosurgeons from around the world. Before the pandemic this was possible only by traveling to overseas conferences and paying registration fees to attend.
As Prof Misra mentioned earlier - one reason for the AASNS' existence is to develop neurosurgery in Asia through education. To this end, the AASNS, through its Education Committee chaired by Prof Kate Drummond, has been holding monthly neurosurgical webinars. The AASNS webinars are specially curated to provide neurosurgical education at a level that will appeal to and benefit general neurosurgeons practising in Asia. The AASNS Neurotrauma Committee, headed by Prof VD Sinha, has also been holding webinars on neurotrauma and neurorehabilitation. The AASNS is collaborating with the National Neuroscience Institute, Singapore, to run neurosurgery bootcamp webinars for the education needs of those starting out in neurosurgery, something that is not readily available for many new neurosurgical trainees.
The webinar technologies have also enabled the Administrative Committee of the AASNS, made up of the President, the Secretary, Dr Iddo Paldor, Vice-Presidents Dr Azmi Alias and Dr Dar-Ming Lai, Treasurer Dr Girish Nair, Chairman of the 2022 AACNS, Dr Yigal Shoshan, Past-President Dr Basant Misra, Education Committee Chair Dr Kate Drummond and Co-chair Dr Bin Xu, and Neurotrauma Committee Chair Dr VD Sinha to meet regularly (monthly) and manage the affairs of the Society. In many ways, such regular meetings have been a godsend as the AASNS oversees a very large and complex area of the world.
The year 2020 has not ended, and it has been a very difficult year so far for the people of this world - because of the pandemic and the way governments are trying to manage it - which has affected everyone. It has certainly affected the neurosurgical community in Asia. The AASNS continues to have a role in all this and we will work to carry out its mandate, in spite of the current state of the world.
WT Seow, President, AASNS