EANS Continental Society Report
I am deeply honored to have served my fellow neurosurgical colleagues as President of our continental association, the EANS.
My term of office met with a significant challenge from the start. Very close to the excellent Venice 2017 Congress, we were faced with the sudden resignation of the then executive director, and the associated uncertainty within the office team. Blessed with a cohesive and professional team in the Board, we quickly set our targets and strategies. With a few dedicated projects in mind we spent the next two years striving to deliver on our major aims; economic transparency, and the rebuilding of a new solid office team as well as a new executive director.
For economic transparency we contracted Deloitte, an expert audit firm, to review the numbers of our organization and the functionality of our economic circuits. This had previously been controlled by the executive director alone; we instead wanted to inject some strength into a solid structure. We travelled to Gent to meet with our notary, accounting, and legal advisors, and we examined the complexity of our international association in order to optimize the financial advantages for the EANS. A small example of the work involved was the reorganization of the pre-existing 18 bank accounts into a leaner and more efficient structure. The Deloitte audit was encouraging of our efforts, and that allowed us to concentrate on our second challenge.
Sourcing a new executive director was complex. The expected cost was very high, taking into account our savings (450,000 euros). We advertised, shortlisted, planned interviews, and finally selected an executive director with seemingly the best experience to take EANS to the next level. However, the drawback was that we had to wait 6 months as he was still working for another organization. He was officially presented in our annual congress in Brussels. During the total time (1 year) with no Executive director, members of the board acted as such, leading the staff team and holding up the EANS office structure. It was difficult particularly as two of the most senior staff members also left the organization, but the Secretary, Treasurer and myself managed to hold up with the rest of the board members helping whenever required. Not too long after the annual congress the yet-to-start executive director announced that he would not be staring his job. We were again left with the most important position in our organization unfilled.
We needed a rapid turnaround, and decided on an association management company rather than an individual. This was in retrospect a fantastic decision. It saved us costs, and gave us the opportunity to utilize the company’s structure and expertise to fill in the gaps of our office personnel (e.g. membership; industry liaison; marketing and design).
The second year of my presidency was more relaxed! The foundations of the first year allowed the Board to turn its attention to other projects.
Education has always been the main jewel for EANS, with a 50-year long tradition.
- We expanded the educational offerings at the hands-on level and launched both basic and advanced courses, for both cranial and spinal neurosurgery. I would to like to mention Torstein Meling as one of the great promoters of this project.
- With the aim of global standardization in neurosurgical education, we collaborated with our sister continental association FLANC, and shared our educational experience in a combined EANS/FLANC training course, copying the EANS model. This was organized by our Training Committee Chair, with the support of 10 of our own faculty together with 10 from FLANC. This inaugural course took place in Rosario, Argentina, with 100 participants.
- Similarly, we signed an agreement with the AANS for an annual exchange of 10 residents from each association to attend our respective courses.
Financial expansion: through interactions with our counterparts in AANS, we undertook to generate monies in an organization account for safety reasons, if something major were to happen and our events cancelled. For this reason, we decided to top-up the reserves up to 3,5 M euros in 5 years. At the end of my term we had accumulated in our account 1,2 M euros, after two very economically successful congresses. I believe this was a great decision, as the current pandemic is costing us some unforeseen expenses. On this matter, I would like to thank John Wilson, current AANS president, who was their treasurer during my term and with whom we discussed such topics.
We created a Research Fund to provide financial support for the best European neurosurgical projects. We managed to obtain support for this from industry as well as some private initiatives. This is hopefully the beginning of giving research a growing role within EANS, given its close relation to education.
We upgraded the EANS to full membership with the EBC (European Brain Council), and also hold our current office of the EANS in their premises in Brussels.
The journey has started but is far from finished, as I mentioned, and the initial stress has led to an increased activity, the fruits of which will hopefully be long lasting. Looking back, I greatly enjoyed my term, with all its unforeseen challenges, and with several targets achieved.
The 2019 Congress in Dublin was the end of my Presidency and I handed over to Karl Schaller, who has since had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic disaster. Resilience and dealing with unpredictable events seem part of this role! Karl has done and is still doing this admirably. He has taken as personal projects the creation of our new journal, and creating the EANS Foundation.
The Board remains close together, allowing Karl to develop his mandate with full support. He has had to call off the same training courses where he once was the chairman, however the Board is making all efforts for a greater, healthier and transparent EANS, giving priority to Education & Research. Plans with the new Foundation include to play an important role in lowand middle-income countries (LMICs) but also to make neurosurgery available to all European citizens wherever they happen to reside. Standardization of training should bring standardization of care, which should be the main priority of all neurosurgical societies and organizations.
If COVID has shown us anything, it is that we have to adapt to a new reality. I believe that now more than ever continental as well as all neurosurgical societies have to find synergies for a better way of organizing congresses, meetings and education, through webinars, internet symposiums etc. Industry needs to support these new educational and training projects until the pandemic is defeated. Such education programs are here to stay and clearly will be part of educational strategies in the future, particularly combined with 5G technology which will allow education and training to reach every corner of the globe.
Adaptation, Vision, Mission, Combined strategies, Hybrid congresses (physical and virtual) are key for the future of neurosurgery with its training and education. The WFNS has to play a major role getting all continental societies to row in the same direction, creating and adapting protocols according to specific necessities and idiosyncrasies.
The EANS is in great hands with the current president and its hard working and committed Board and office team. Valentini, our Executive Director and the office team as a whole have done an amazing job and continue to do. We are very lucky to have them.
Keep safe and healthy and hope to see you in person very soon.
Jesus Lafuente, Past President EANS (2017-2019)