A Message from RCSEd CEO, Mark Egan

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03 Mar 2023

Newly appointed Chief Executive of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Mark Egan shares his first impressions of the Faculty of Remote, Rural and Humanitarian Healthcare and its wider contribution to the College.

One useless piece of information I have retained is that there is a difference between an acronym and an initialism. Both are abbreviations but an acronym can be said as a word – NATO, for example, or RoSPA. With an initialism, the individual letters have to be read out – BBC, for example.

Last week, I heard an attempt to render FRRHH as an acronym. The absence of vowels meant it didn’t really work, “fwwrrhh” sounding like a teenager’s expression of discontent on opening an empty fridge.

I’m not sure the Faculty of Remote, Rural and Humanitarian Healthcare needs to change its name in order to come up with an acronym or a shorter initialism. The title accurately captures what the Faculty has been set up to deal with. Rural – that’s clear; humanitarian – also obvious; remote – I think of oil rigs and Polar research stations.

My previous life was spent working with politicians, mostly thinking about constitutional issues, parliamentary governance, and how to make democratic politics work a bit better. Earlier on I worked with select committees, becoming briefly expert in UK transport issues, human rights law and the inner workings of HM Treasury. I never worked on health issues, so my knowledge is based on what I’ve read in the newspaper and heard on the Today programme. Moving to work for the College has put me on a steep learning curve, but one I’m relishing.

The FRRHH is at the forefront of the College’s mission to improve patient safety worldwide, tackling the challenges of raising standards in a wide range of difficult environments for healthcare. I think of the Faculty as similar to the early pioneers who sought to raise surgical standards, with the same passion to use teaching, standards and assessment to drive better outcomes for patients.

I listened to an interesting debate last week in the College Council Development Session on whether and how the Faculty can assess candidates for College membership and fellowship. There was warm support for the Faculty and its objectives and a willingness to find innovative solutions which enable the Faculty to bring forward candidates for these positions without the usual reliance on examination. It was also interesting to reflect on the contribution non-clinical staff play in remote, rural and humanitarian healthcare and how this can be recognised within the College structure.

Also impressive was the quality of the presentation put together by RCSEd Council Member, Prof Angus Watson and Faculty Development Manager, Gill Mitchell, which ensured that the Council discussion was focused on the key issues. I particularly wish to pay tribute to Gill and the Faculty office for the superb support they provide.

Being new in post I am still finding out lots about my role. I was surprised recently to discover that I am a member of the FRRHH Executive Committee but, reflecting on this, the rationale is clear and sensible. I work closely with the College’s Office Bearers and by being a member of the Executive Committee I can help ensure that there is a clear line of communication between Office Bearers and the Faculty and help smooth obstacles in the Faculty’s path as they arise. In addition, I see the papers of all the faculties and sometimes attend their meetings, which helps me  to see possible connections between their work.

At the last FRRHH Executive Committee meeting, I confirmed that the College remains committed to the Faculty and will continue to support the organisation through to it achieving financial sustainability, and beyond. I don’t see the Faculty as a separate unit, which the College has an interest in supporting: I see it as an integral part of the College, contributing to the core work of the College, enhancing the College’s reputation for innovation and excellence, and bringing in new members and fellows. All of the staff supporting faculties now report to the Director of Membership, Marketing and Communications, which ensures that there is a strong voice for the faculties on my senior leadership team. In addition, we’re recruiting a new Head of Faculties who will drive the strategic development of faculty functions over the next few years.

I am looking forward to working with the FRRHH and meeting as many FRRHH members as possible. In the meantime, please do feel free to get in touch with me using frrhh@rcsed.ac.uk.

Mark Egan

Interim Chief Executive Office, RCSEd

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