Summer is upon us, and here in the UK’s most equatorial cardiac unit our rota is beginning to reflect the absence of colleagues on their breaks. All of us who aren’t on holiday will most likely be a little busier than normal. The Society Executive Committee and the College Council will be busier still, feverishly finishing reports, finalising proposed rule changes, organising elections and doing their level best to make sure that all of us have an enjoyable and informative Congress in October.
At the time of writing this piece I had just read an e-mail from the Society looking for examiners for four of the fifteen-plus accreditation practical/viva examinations that will take place over the summer. It is a relatively small period from completing final examinations at NESCOT to hopefully receiving certificates at the AGM in October. I know that in the past, when the examination rules were changed to allow the practical/viva to take place anytime after completion of the second year Perfusion Module, it was hoped that the examination window would widen accordingly and the pressure on departments that support examiners would be less acute. I suppose we should have expected that trainees would, not unreasonably continue to prefer to finish one set of exams before preparing for the next set. Whilst acknowledging that there are imperfections in our system of professional training, we should also take pride in the fact that, despite the inherent difficulties in shipping pairs of examiners to all corners of Great Britain and Ireland, we continue to manage it. Good luck to all of those trainees having their practicals and vivas over the coming months.
At the last Executive Committee meeting, two Rule Changes were discussed and it was agreed that they would be put to the membership this year:
1. Limiting a perfusionist’s training period to 5 years, whereby if the training period exceeds 5 years it would have to start again. 5 years will seem generous to most people, but unforeseen episodes – good or bad – can occur in people’s lives and there must be a degree of flexibility. It is right, however, that any such flexibility should go hand-in-hand with a clearly-defined finite period.
2. The possible future migration to Modernising Scientific Careers (MSC) was discussed. For some time now Steve Robins and Simon Phillips from the Society and Mette Larsen from the College have been meeting with Department of Health (DH) officials regarding the adoption of MSC as a training and career pathway for perfusionists. Now the DH has asked the Society to vote on whether to go down this road at this year’s AGM. Clearly this would at the very least be a significant change for our profession and it is essential that as many members as possible attend the discussions regarding this when we meet in Bristol. Please don’t assume that the impact of MSC will be limited to training. Profound changes to the status of those already qualified are also possible. My personal opinion of MSC is that it is an ill-considered project that lacks transparency, at best. I am not privy to the exact format in which this issue will be presented at the Congress but I do know that the Executive Committee is determined to present to the membership all it knows about MSC.
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Many years ago, on one of my train commutes to a Society meeting in London, I sat opposite a man I was sure I knew, but whom I couldn’t place. Over the course of the next hour or so it became clear to me that another man recognised him and kept passing up and down the carriage aisle, slowing each time he neared our table. Eventually the man in the aisle stopped and apologising for interrupting, and asked the man opposite “Are you Kenneth Wolstenholme?”, and indeed it was. For those who don’t know, Wolstenholme was the BBC commentator at the 1966 World Cup Final whose commentary included the now famous phrase “Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over . . . it is now.” The third man began to explain that he was at the game, perched high on his own father’s shoulders and would forever be grateful to Wolstenholme’s commentary for allowing him to relive his wonderful experience. After exchanging pleasantries and with autograph in hand the third man departed. After a further few minutes Kenneth Wolstenholme asked me if I knew what the Wembley Stadium attendance was in 1966. I guessed “100,000?”, to which he replied “No, slightly less” (apparently it was 98,000). He continued, “Despite that, I have met at least 1 million people who say that they were in Wembley Stadium at that game”.
I suspect that in the years to come there will be many people who want to believe that they worked with Andy Pastellopoulos. Some that did have kindly written a number of tributes to Andy and I am grateful to Andy Forsyth, John Bell and Michael Whitehorne for taking the time to compose and share them.
My own connection with Andy is very limited – I am, if you like, one of those 900,000 deluded non-attendees at Wembley, an aspirant colleague of Andy’s. I can only speak about Andy with regard to the Society. For the profession he was a perpetual moderniser. He was unrestrained by any presumptions about what was possible, and constantly urged the Society to be unafraid to question what it was being told to do by, for example, the DH. I hope that ethos will continue to fire the Society for at least the next forty years! My first meeting with Andy was with two ONC colleagues. The three of us resentfully (certainly in my case) made the journey across the river to King’s College Hospital, where Andy was to advise us on the format for the upcoming accreditation exams to be taken at Penn’s Hall in Sutton Coldfield. It was bad enough that we would have to do exams that none of our colleagues had had to do, but to have to go all the way to King’s . . . Once there and briefed, the three of us reluctant infants had to face one final exasperated observation from Andy. One that examinees are currently bearing in mind and one that the Society Executive Committee should also continue to bear in mind – “Its not supposed to be ******* easy!”