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The heart of matters

This year the 67th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Irish Cardiac Society (ICS) will take place in the Newpark Hotel, Kilkenny, from Thursday, 6 October to Saturday, 8 October. It is the first time the Society, which was formed in 1949, will hold its meeting in Kilkenny. Over the three days approximately 300 healthcare professionals are due to attend the event.

Outgoing ICS President Prof Ken McDonald told the Medical Independent (MI) that the Meeting has an exciting line-up of speakers, who will present delegates with the latest updates and developments in cardiology. Prof Mark Monaghan, King’s College Hospital, London, UK, will give a talk entitled ‘Echo in the Cath Lab – a meeting of minds and images,’ and Prof Christopher McGregor, Professor and Chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University College London and the Heart Hospital, will discuss ‘21st Century technologies for heart valve and heart replacement.’ Prof Jennifer G Robinson, who is Director of the Prevention Intervention Centre, University of Iowa in the US, will also give a presentation asking whether it is possible to cure atherosclerosis. She will provide an overview of cardiovascular risk in populations, evidence for atherosclerosis regression, the potential role of PCSK9 inhibition, and safety considerations from long-term therapies and pharmacologically induced low LDL-C levels.

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Prof Ken McDonald

The Stokes Lecture is the traditional keynote address of the Annual Meeting. Every year a renowned speaker is invited to address Society members and conference delegates and is presented with the Irish Cardiac Society Stokes Medal. This year the lecture will be delivered by RCSI graduate Dr Magnus Ohman, Professor of Medicine, Duke University Medical Centre, North Carolina, US, who will discuss ‘The Role of Aspirin in Acute Coronary Syndromes: A 30-year Journey.’

“Magnus is a major player now in North American interventional cardiology and he is going to talk to us about the role of aspirin in acute coronary syndromes,” according to Prof McDonald.

“It is great to see one of our own guys coming back having done so well abroad. I think the topic is always topical. There is always heated debate about aspirin, maybe not in the setting of acute coronary syndromes, but in the role of general cardiovascular disease. The historical perspective will be interesting, especially as some of the guys who will be at the conference would not have been born 30 years ago. It will be great for them to hear the history of such a regularly used compound.”

Research

As usual, the Meeting will also feature a number of local research abstract presentations. There will be 66 of these this year, comprising oral, moderated poster, and general poster abstracts. Over 120 submissions were made for the Meeting, meaning there was an acceptance rate of approximately 50 per cent. Prof McDonald said the quality of submissions was “very high” this year, confirming the calibre of cardiovascular research being conducted in Ireland.

He also highlighted the importance of the Brian Maurer Young Investigator Award. The Award, which is sponsored by Servier, is aimed at promising young investigators to encourage and promote quality and original research in cardiology. The award is named in honour of the late Dr Maurer who was President of the Irish Cardiac Society from 1988 to 1990 and who, throughout his career, was a strong advocate for research and very supportive to all young cardiologists as they embarked on their careers.  

“The topics they are discussing are broad ranging, which is great. They include everything from psychosocial wellbeing in people who have congenital heart disease, through to the impact of nephropathy and blood pressure issues and then types of heart failure,” explained Prof McDonald.

“They are a broad range of topics and seem to be high-quality pieces, so it will be a very interesting session. We will also be awarding the Brian McGovern Fellowship, which is a Fellowship we give to one of our trainees going abroad for training, and acknowledge the support given by Bayer, that is an important part of the Society’s function to try as best we can to facilitate some of our trainees going abroad.

“The Fellowship is very valuable in that it encourages and allows some of our trainees to go abroad. More so now than in the past, when you are going abroad to do training, especially if you are doing research, it is very difficult to get the receiving institution to pay for your education or training or research experience, you need to come with funds. The final bursary we have in that regard is a travel home bursary that MSD give us to help our fellows come back for this meeting.”

Photocalls will also be held with BMS and Sanofi Travelling Fellowship winners, along with the recipients of the 2016 travel home grants supported by MSD, which allow Irish trainees currently abroad to return to present at the conference.

Debate

Another highlight of the ICS Meeting will be the big debate, which is now a regular part of the event, and will take place on the Saturday morning. This year’s motion asks the provocative question: ‘Is there a need for a heart team?’ Dr Keith Oldroyd, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Golden Jubilee National Hospital, Glasgow, UK, and Prof William Wyns, Co-Director Cardiovascular Centre, Aalst, Belgium, will contest the motion, and incoming ICS President, Dr Albert McNeill, will chair the session.

“This is probably most pertinent to the whole area of revascularisation and to help with the decision as to whether somebody needs to have coronary narrowings revascularised and if they do whether it should be done by interventional techniques or by surgical techniques,” commented Prof McDonald.

“Those decisions in some cases are very straightforward and in other cases are not so straightforward. We are advocating, as is advocated by the European guidelines, that a team approach consisting of expertise in all of these areas is involved in making the decision on behalf of the patient. I suppose we are going to be teasing out the pluses and minuses of this approach because nothing is without its drawbacks. It will be interesting to hear the views of the two cardiologists, because it is like everything that is good; it may not be good in all circumstances and we need to have a good discussion.”

Guidelines

This year’s Meeting also marks an important development in the history of the Society as it will hold the first Joint ICS/European Society of Cardiology Session. The session will focus on ‘New ESC Heart Failure Guidelines’.

“That will be an interesting aspect of the Meeting on the Saturday morning,” Prof McDonald said.

“We would always have invited people from the North American area and from Europe to speak at the Meeting, but never acknowledged the formalised association between the ESC and the Irish Cardiac Society. We now intend to have formal sessions that are conjointly chaired by the two societies to have topics relevant to how Ireland as an island interacts with the larger international groups and how we can position ourselves in relation to them.”

For the second year, the ICS has invited GPs to attend its Annual Meeting for a session to discuss the management of patients with cardiovascular problems within primary care. Prof McDonald said that this will be a useful session given the central role GPs play in the area and he hopes to build upon the foundation laid at last year’s Meeting in fostering a closer relationship between GPs and their cardiology colleagues.

 “It reflects the interaction between the GPs who are now being invited to the Meeting and the specialists to try and improve the communication between primary and secondary care in the management of cardiovascular disease. I think this will be a space that will evolve over time within the Society about how we interact with our general practitioner colleagues at individual level, but probably formally through bodies like the ICGP and in the North the Royal College of General Practitioners. So I think we are only touching the surface of this interaction, but it is critical, because most cardiovascular care goes on in the community. Most of it does not directly involve the direct participants of the Irish Cardiac Society, so we need to have some way of interacting with our general practitioner colleagues to address what they feel are their concerns and the gaps they see in the service.”

As usual, the ICS also facilitates and supports the annual meetings of the Irish Nurses Cardiovascular Association, Cardiac Clinical Physiologists, and Irish Atherosclerosis Society at its annual event. This speaks of its recognition that collaboration between professional groups is essential in good cardiovascular care.

Reflections

The ICS Meeting will also commemorate the passing of the esteemed cardiologist and past President of the ICS Prof Risteard Mulcahy earlier this year.

“Every year some of our members will pass away, and we never like to select one over another, but Risteard’s contribution to cardiology has been truly immense,” Prof McDonald said.

“He was there at the founding of the Society and he was one of the strong international voices from Irish cardiology over the years. His contribution to cardiovascular health on the island is difficult to measure due to its significance. We think it is very important the Society honour individuals such as Risteard when they pass on.”

This Meeting will be Prof McDonald’s last as President, with Dr McNeill due to assume the role after the event. Prof McDonald said he has enjoyed his time in the role and wished the best of luck to his successor.

“The Society will only ever be as strong as the people involved in it,” he concluded.

“I know that is a cliché, but it is true. There has been a lot of hard work put in by a lot of people over the last several years not just during my Presidency. That is reflected in better relations with the ESC, for example. There is also more activity, internally in the island, to try and advocate for matters that are relevant to cardiovascular care. So these are issues that we need to build on and I have no doubt the Society will go from strength to strength in the years ahead.”

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