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RCPI’s Annual Conference goes virtual

By Mindo - 08th Oct 2020

The RCPI’s Annual Conference – St Luke’s Symposium invites doctors to join them online for three days of unmissable events

“This year has been one like no other, but we were determined that our Annual Conference – St Luke’s Symposium would still go ahead,” says Prof Mary Horgan, President of the RCPI.

“The Symposium is a landmark event in the RCPI calendar and one we wanted to ensure would endure this year, despite the circumstances.”

For the first time in RCPI’s history the College’s flagship conference, which takes place from October 14-16, will be delivered entirely online, including three virtual fellowship ceremonies, which will take place on the evening of each day.

“Due to the ongoing and ever-changing Covid-19 restrictions, we weren’t entirely sure what format the Symposium would take this year. However, I’m delighted that we’ve been able to present this event virtually for the first time,” says Dr Diarmuid O’Shea, RCPI Registrar.

He continues: “This year’s programme is one that brings together world-class speakers and, I think, not only reflects the concerns of doctors in Ireland at this time but also delves into the pressing non-Covid issues that we mustn’t forget during the pandemic.”

This year’s Symposium began earlier than usual when RCPI partnered with the Irish Gerontological Society to co-present this year’s IGS ALONE Willie Bermingham Lecture on October 1,where Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme, delivered an inspiring and thought-provoking lecture. Dr O’Shea says: “This event offered an opportunity to recognise the work Dr Ryan has done around the world in shaping the response to managing Covid-19 and other pandemics. He shared with us his insights into how we, as a country, can learn lessons from our collective experiences of battling Covid-19 and other pandemics, to improve how we deliver support and care to all of us as we age in Ireland.”

Dr O’Shea continues: “The RCPI want to increase our engagement with Ireland’s medical societies and the success of this webinar was a reflection of how we can work together to do this across the Institutes and Faculties of our college in association with the national medical societies.”

Heritage Day kicks off the upcoming three days of webinars on October 14. Presented in conjunction with RCPI’s Heritage Centre, this event is open to healthcare professionals and the public. This year’s day, entitled Covid-19; The Quest for a Vaccine, will look at this issue, the history of vaccinations in Ireland and the issue of hesitancy.

“I’m really excited about this year’s programme,” says Ms Harriet Wheelock, RCPI’s Keeper of Collections. “I’ll be joined by Prof Luke O’Neill who will discuss our current prospects for a Covid vaccine. Looking back, medical historian Dr Ida Milne and Dr Anne Moore, senior lecturer in biochemistry and cell biology at University College Cork, will see what lessons we might learn from the history of pandemics and epidemics. I’ll be presenting on smallpox and the establishment of vaccination in Ireland, which has some interesting takeaways in terms of our and historical attitudes to the process.”

On October 15, the Advanced Masterclass session takes place, this year tackling the theme of new frontiers in medicine. Dr James O’Byrne, Consultant Clinical and Biochemical Geneticist in the Mater Misericordiae University will examine the area of genomic medicine, while Prof Dubhfeasa Slattery, Consultant Respiratory and General Paediatrician at Children’s Health Ireland at Temple Street, will delve into the area of professionalism in healthcare. Alcohol, liver disease and COVID-19 – secondary harm of Covid-19 is the title of the presentation by Prof Ewan Forrest, Consultant Hepatologist at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Honorary Professor at University of Glasgow. And Dr Callum Swift, Emergency Medicine Trainee and Associate Director of Irish Doctors for the Environment, will look at why the climate crisis is a health crisis.

The final event of the week on October 16 is split into two sessions, the first of the day examining the challenges for medical training in the Irish health service.

“Already this session has proved extremely popular,” says Dr O’Shea. “From the experience of working in Ireland as a non-training scheme doctor to a debate on generalism vs specialism, our hope is to take a deep dive into some of the most important issues we face in training at the moment and how we might move forward within these challenges. This is one not to miss.”

The Symposium ends with the Future of Medicine: Leaders Forum, which will examine the concept of leadership in healthcare and why, more than ever, this needs to be a priority.

“As chair of this event I’m excited to explore this important area,” says Prof Mary Horgan. “Prof Fergus Shanahan, author of the recently published The Language of Illness will look at the issue of communication with patients. Prof Patrick Wall, Professor of Public Health at University College Dublin will examine risk management, and I’m thrilled to be joined by Dr Geraldine McGinty, Assistant Professor of Radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College who will talk about educating and empowering physician leaders.”

In addition, and in another College first, Fellows who joined RCPI in absentia this year will be celebrated in a series of virtual ceremonies, which will be broadcast each evening on the RCPI’s YouTube channel. New Fellows from around the world will be able to watch along as their huge achievement is celebrated by the officers of the College.

“While there have undoubtedly been challenges with the virtual format of this year’s Symposium, it’s also presented us with the opportunity to reach a wider audience of attendees who may not have been able to visit us at Number 6, Kildare Street in previous years. I would encourage as many doctors as possible, from all around Ireland and from around the world, to join us for this unique St Luke’s Symposium,” says Dr Terry McWade, CEO, RCPI.

Finally, Prof Horgan adds: “While we cannot connect in person right now, there’s never been a better time for the medical profession to come together virtually to debate, reflect and engage with each other.”

This article was produced by the RCPI. To book your seat at this year’s RCPI Annual Conference – St Luke’s Symposium visit You can follow the conversation from the Symposium on social media at #RCPI2020.

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