Bulletin October 2020 Number 192

Thank you first for allowing me to represent you. It has been a huge privilege to get to know you and your work in even greater depth, and to work with you to support our profession. I have never failed to be awed by the skill and dedication of those who work across all our disciplines in pathology. Your commitment and sheer grit has been amazing. 

With my last Bulletin piece as President comes thanks, reflections and hopes for the future.

So the thanks first.

Thank you first for allowing me to represent you. It has been a huge privilege to get to know you and your work in even greater depth, and to work with you to support our profession. I have never failed to be awed by the skill and dedication of those who work across all our disciplines in pathology. Your commitment and sheer grit has been amazing.

It was super to be able to come and visit so many of you, across so many centres, during the #LabTours, and it was a shame that the second phase of these was curtailed due to the pandemic. Meeting you face to face and, more recently, ‘across a crowded zoom’, has been excellent. Telling governments, ministers and decision makers about the brilliant things that you all do (and how bad it will be if they don’t support you!) together with showing them in person around our labs has also been very helpful to ‘ground’ or reframe some of their preconceptions and reinforce the importance of our services.

It has been excellent to see so many colleagues in the UK Queen’s Birthday Honours list and we are so proud that they have been recognised nationally. Congratulations to the following members and to other colleagues who were acknowledged: Dr Eleri Davies for services to healthcare in Wales particularly during COVID-19; Professor Marta Cohen for services to the treatment of sudden infant death syndrome; Mr David Maguire for services to the community in Glasgow during the COVID-19 response; Dr Karen Smith for services to the telecommunications industry during COVID-19; Dr Catherine Moore for services to public health during COVID-19; and Dr Rachael Liebmann for services to pathology during the COVID-19 response.

We have also been able to provide formal College recognition of some more of the fabulous work you do through our Achievement Awards, which have helped bring to light tremendous teaching, innovation, patient safety and service practice locally, nationally and internationally. This year’s awards will be published soon. You are gracious and generous in supporting and paying tribute to your colleagues and it is great to be able to help you do so.

Thanks also to those College members and staff who do so much to help our profession through advice, guidance, training and standards. You do so much normally, but the response to COVID-19 has been especially outstanding. The rapid response to production of guidance by our specialty groups and experts, creation of the information hub, post-mortem portal and the popular series of free evening webinars have all been brilliant. The transition to online exams, accelerated by the pandemic, has been possible through the (even more than usual!) outstanding work of examiners, learning and exams teams. Our Trainee Advisory Committee and broader trainee community have been absolutely fantastic in this, and so much more.

A warm welcome also to the trainees who have come to join us. It is so good to see two consecutive years of full recruitment (one of our key aims), following a considerable fallow period in some of our areas. I am confident that those who have come to pathology will have a great career with us.

Our Specialty Advisory Committees, Council and Trustee Board are also amazing and deserving of all our thanks. The people who sit on these give so much of their time and expertise, and the way in which they work is admirable. They are so open to new ideas and ways of working with sharing of expertise and experience and being prepared to challenge, but based on a deep desire to make our profession better.

Thanks also to the many other individuals and organisations with whom we have worked to support our workforce, our need for investment in IT capacity and capability, and our profile. We have worked with the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, government and arm’s length bodies, members of the Pathology Alliance, a wide range of professional bodies, charities, specialist societies and many others. They have been great partners, and my special thanks to all. Much of this work is now bearing fruit, with some significant investment having already been announced, and we look forward to further investment in our services and our people.

Some reflections also...

This is not my first pandemic. The first was as a haematology junior doctor as HIV became apparent. At the time, I was acutely aware of the impact on my patients and our practice, but unaware then of the enormous efforts by laboratory and professional colleagues that accompanied the identification of the virus and the management of the disease. Things have moved on, and time has perhaps dulled the appreciation of what great things in both human and animal health have been achieved by our profession with regard to HIV, and so many other diseases. We take amazing progress and all that effort for granted. As we look forward to the rollout of vaccines for COVID-19 and, hopefully, some degree of return to a more normal existence, we will have another generation of pathologists at least who will not easily forget how much has been achieved for patients in response to this new threat, even when under such enormous pressure.

Reflecting on what has gone well and what could have been better is a natural thing, not only for annual appraisal, but also as we come to the end of a role. I certainly wasn’t anticipating having to deal with another pandemic! It has not been easy, especially not recently. No College or organisation, or indeed individual (or government!), will always get things right. But we have tried. I believe that we have listened to you, and responded to what you have asked us to do in a constructive way. You have helped us with advice, wisdom and your experience. Your letters and emails to me are heartfelt and are appreciated. They sometimes contradict what other members have suggested, but we try to take on board all views. We have come to you with consultations on how we are doing, and what you think about a range of issues. We have achieved a massive amount of change over the last three years, with more awaiting decision at the coming Annual General Meeting (in particular the governance proposals regarding Diplomates being able to vote, Presidents not coming from the same specialty as the previous President, etc.). We do listen! You are the College, and we will continue to adapt and develop. Your views, input and feedback will continue to be so important in this.

My final and very simple reflection is on the supportive nature of our profession. The cooperation, support and kindness I have seen from colleague to colleague, between departments and between organisations has been something of which I have been particularly proud. Even under extreme pressure people have remained gracious and cooperative. It makes the professional world a better place to be in, and is a tribute to all.

My hopes for the future are also simple... continued kindness and cooperation, an effective COVID-19 vaccine that is globally available, a little more time for us all to rest and recover from the recent onslaught, and of course, lots more pathologists for all our disciplines, all with state of the art IT!

Professor Jo Martin