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Message from the ESSO President 17/10/2018

Last week at the ESSO38 Congress in Budapest I took over the Presidency of the European Society of Surgical Oncology for a term of 2 years.

The surgical oncologist is in the centre of cancer care leading the multidisciplinary cancer management teams and surgeons have a pivotal role in diagnosing and treating cancer patients. Surgical Oncology (SO) is an independent subspecialty with it’s own Curriculum, Fellowship and Specialty Examination (UEMS Board). 

As part of the ESSO Strategic Plan I intend to focus my leadership objectives around:

  • Surgical Oncology European Accreditation
  • Certification of Surgical Oncologists and Breast Cancer Surgeons
  • Global Collaboration with Partner Societies
  • Promote diversity in the Surgical Oncology leadership 
  • Mentoring young surgical oncologists and promote the introduction of new educational methods and social media

In Europe we have only 12 countries with a National SO Society and SO is a recognised subspecialty only in 35% of the countries (ESSO Survey on SO). The accreditation of SO is performed by a variety of bodies, National Institutes, Ministry, Regional Health Boards. 

69% of the respondents to our ESSO Survey consider the UEMS European certification useful.

There is no universal and unique training and accreditation system in SO and Breast Cancer Surgery across Europe.

ESSO, jointly with other partner Societies has a key role in promoting and working on certification, and my strong belief is that patients should be treated by accredited cancer surgeons, no matter where they live in Europe.

The Global Forum of Cancer Surgeons was formed under the auspices of the Society of Surgical Oncology (USA) in 2017 and aims to work with global cancer advocacy groups and organisations to address the lack of surgical leadership and inequities in surgical care for cancer patients on the global stage. ESSO is a founding member of the Global Forum and intends to further develop it’s goals and mission to provide a voice for cancer surgeons.

In my tenure I intend to further promote diversity in our leadership as diverse surgical leadership promotes co-operation and decreases conflict: mixed surgical teams lead to less medical error (The Economist, article 2018). I am proud to say that the ESSO leadership has already a 30% female representation that will expand further.

ESSO is offering a platform for young surgical oncologists , the EYSAC Young Surgeons and Alumni Club with career support and benefits for young SO including networking, fellowships, courses and masterclasses, with my intention is to expand this towards comprehensive mentoring of young surgeons working in cancer care. 

A web based survey of the ESSO-EYSAC community regarding the Quality of Life of SO Residents across Europe showed a positive screening for depression in 51% and burnout in 25 % of the respondents, with lack of mentorship.

Our duty as a Society is to further assess the young ESSO community, raise awareness and talk about the problem. 

I am keen on promoting combining clinical activity with research and academic interests to increase job satisfaction and to promote mentorship programs addressing all complex problems related to a career in SO.

By developing close links with patient support organisations, my view is that cancer care should be patient led: patients should be able to “control” who they treat them by having access to specialists trained and accredited in Surgical Oncology all across Europe.

The new ESSO Board for 2018-2020 is keen to work towards these goals together, prepared to face the “grand challenges” in Surgical Oncology:

“The surgeon should not only act as a technician but as a real scientist, being able to understand the results of basic and clinical research beyond the surgical domain” (U. Veronesi, 2012)

Tibor Kovacs, PhD, FRCS, FEBS

Honorary Senior Lecturer King’s College London

ESSO President


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