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Some physicians staying abroad is ‘the price we pay’ for top-class Irish cardiologists — new ICS President

The incoming Irish Cardiac Society (ICS) President Dr Jim Crowley has said that the chance that cardiologists in training may not return to Ireland is “the price we pay” for the high levels of expertise among Irish cardiologists.

Speaking to the Medical Independent (MI) at the recent Irish Cardiac Society Annual Scientific Meeting and AGM in Galway, Dr Crowley explained that while some cardiologists who travel abroad in their final two years of training may decide not to come back to Ireland, this is a necessary risk to allow the cardiologists of the future to provide the best services for Irish patients.

“Almost every one of our trainees ends up going to world-class centres abroad in the last two years of their training,” he said. “When they are trained, they have developed the expertise that we hope they will bring back to Ireland. Many of them do come back; some of them remain in other countries, but that is the price we pay for getting people of such excellent quality coming home and bringing back the superb skills that they acquire.”

This system has a significant positive knock-on effect for the Irish health service as a whole, he explained. “A lot of the growth and the advances in cardiology in Ireland have come from these trainees bringing back what they have seen and learned abroad in these world-class centres and insisting on developments occurring in Ireland, which makes sure the general population is treated with the best techniques and technologies,” he told MI.

Describing trainee placements as a “double-edged sword”, he continued: “Ireland is a very small country… we want our trainees to learn in the best centres in the world. We find that the feedback we get from these centres — I am one of the trainers myself — is that they are delighted with the Irish [trainees] that they receive and they say that the training the Irish people have received in basic cardiology and management is top class, so they are also very happy to take them in.”

The risk is that the centres abroad will want to hire Irish trainees as consultants. Yet many Irish cardiologists retain a desire to return home, especially to the larger care centres, said Dr Crowley. “However, in some of the facilities that are not tertiary referral centres, it can be difficult to come back to those centres because they have been trained to such a high level; we may need to look at that in terms of modifying the training programmes.”

Dr Crowley said that for the next two years of his tenure as President, among his priorities will be to maintain the momentum the ICS has built up and to expand contacts at international level with organisations abroad, particularly with the European Society of Cardiology and the American College of Cardiology, among others. “We already have close relationships with these bodies and these must continue to be fostered,” he said. “Many of the representatives from these societies want to come to our meetings. We must also continue to foster developments for our trainees.”

In terms of the ICS’s prestige internationally, he lauded outgoing President Dr Albert McNeill for his work in this area: “He has been a great ambassador for the ICS abroad. This is a very important role for the President and it helps to improve access for trainees to centres abroad, which is very important for them.” 

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