One of the most rewarding and important aspects of my role as President is meeting members of our global O&G community, and hearing first-hand about the issues that matter most to you and your vital work to improve the health of women and girls.
In the last few months, my feet have barely touched the ground as I have travelled the world representing the College and the profession, meeting Fellows and Members from the UK and across the world. These engagements have included the National Indian Association of Gynaecological Endoscopists event, the 10th International Conference of the Royal Medical Services in Jordan, and the British Society for Gynaecological Endoscopy conference, where I was proud to join speakers for the ‘In memory of Suffragettes’ session. I was also deeply honoured to give the annual Sir Alec Turnbull lecture. My talk was titled 'if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail'. This is a famous quote by Abraham Maslow, a psychologist. It refers to an over-reliance on a familiar or favourite tool. I spoke about how over-reliance on limited procedures means at times we do not offer women the best choice. I discussed how we need to train our trainees to end up with a large toolbox and not just a hammer they can use as needed. I also highlighted the importance of embracing the fact that as surgeons in our specialty, we need to commit to being life-long learners. Only then can we offer the right procedure to the right patient. This is what our patients expect and deserve. And earlier this month, I joined the 75th Annual Congress of the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Tokyo, and was proud to see the excellent presentations from RCOG trainees there.
In June, I am looking forward to welcoming you to the College for our annual World Congress (12-14 June). Always a highlight of the College calendar, this meeting will bring our international community together to share best practice and innovation in our wonderful specialty. We are holding this as a hybrid event, so I am looking forward to welcoming delegates both virtually as well as in-person at our London home. The event will showcase the work of many world-class experts, and for those of you who have not yet booked your place, there is still time to register for the event. You can see the interactive Congress programme here.
Whether I am able to meet you at Congress, or during one of my visits in the UK or abroad, I know that I will value our conversation. These meetings provide me with invaluable insights on how the College can best support you and your practice and allow me the chance to say thank you in person for your contribution to our specialty and to the College. I am so grateful to the many clinical volunteers around the world who support our Board, Committees, Exams and Advisory Groups, amongst many other vital areas.
It’s clear from my discussions with you that, while collectively we recognise the enormous privilege of looking after women throughout their lives, our profession continues to face significant challenges. The College continues to work tirelessly to do what we are able to help address these.
One such challenge is a priority I worked on in my capacity as Vice President and that I am determined to address now I am President. This is the ongoing need to tackle racism and bias in our profession, alongside reducing the racial inequalities in care that impact women and girls throughout their life course.
The UK Women and Equalities Committee recently published an important report on maternal health disparities, to which Dr Christine Ekechi, a trusted and important RCOG ally on the issue of race equality, contributed. The Maternity Disparities Taskforce must now lead on delivering a cross-government target and strategy to drive a sustained reduction in racial and ethnic disparities, as well as recognising and addressing the staff shortages and other critical factors that create a barrier to improving maternity care. Read our response to the publication.
Last month, at a Population, Development and Reproductive Health APPG event in the London Parliament, I spoke about the impact of the overturning of Roe v Wade in the USA and how the UK can mitigate the consequences for global abortion access. We continue to work hard to advocate for access to safe abortion care for women and girls around the world – an area in which we have seen real wins for women in terms of self-management of abortion in the UK, as well as concerning developments in the USA. I wanted to highlight our new position statement on self-management of abortion published on World Health Day, 7 April. The College continues to call for the decriminalisation of abortion globally and urges governments around the world to take progressive steps to this end. Read our statement.
In April, the College published a joint consensus statement, with the Royal College of GPs, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health and the British Menopause Society, on how the opportunity presented by the Women’s Health Hub model in England can be harnessed. Hub models should ensure women are seen ‘in the right setting, by the right professional, at the right time’ by better integration of women’s health services across primary, secondary and sexual and reproductive health. Read the statement.
An issue members in the UK regularly raise with me is the impact on gynaecology waiting lists. Our ‘Left for too long’ report (2022) outlined key recommendations to support effective and equitable recovery of elective gynaecology services, and we are continuing to advocate for action by NHS leaders to prioritise improvement. We welcome hearing about solutions being implemented locally to reduce outpatient and surgical waiting lists, and I encourage you to share these with our Policy Team (email@example.com), as the College collates examples of good practice in action. Read our 'Left for too long’ report
Alongside this year’s World Congress, June represents a busy month for the College. We will be holding a ‘Month of Genomics’ to share information on the role of genomics across preconception, antenatal and postnatal care. A number of talks and Q&A sessions at our World Congress will also explore this topic. Details can be found here.
We will also be celebrating UK Pride Month and would encourage you to attend the LGBTQ+ focused session at the World Congress - details here. Look out for a selection of relevant and useful RCOG eLearning resources, which will be shared in our member email communications and across social media throughout June.
Finally, as Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, it’s a timely moment to reflect on wellbeing and mental health. We continue to work through a time of great pressure, and we must get through this together with resilience and compassion. If you’re joining our World Congress, you may be interested in attending the keynote session on ‘The mental health of healthcare staff – what we know and how to improve it,’ by Neil Greenberg, Professor of Defence and Mental Health.
Please do come and say hello if you are at Congress. My next update will be published in July – until then, thank you and very best wishes to you all.