It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the Irish Thoracic Society Annual Scientific Meeting 2022. After an absence of two long years it is wonderful to be back in face to face mode again. Sincere thanks and congratulations to Dr Ruairi Fahy, Dr Brian Canavan, Dr Eleanor Dunican and Dr Brian Kent for putting together an excellent educational programme. I would like to take this opportunity to share some of the Society’s highlights over the past year – in particular around our pillars of: Advocacy; Education and training; Research and Membership services.
The ITS Virtual Annual Scientific Meeting 2021 was organised and broadcast from Cork last November. With its excellent line-up of topics and international expertise the meeting saw strong engagement and attendance from respiratory healthcare professionals across Ireland. Thanks to Dr Michael Henry and Professor Marcus Kennedy and their colleagues in Cork for the success of this meeting. The ITS Exceptional Summer Meeting which took place in NUI Galway in May was the first in person gathering of the ITS community in over two years and featured an outstanding line-up of guest speakers. A highlight of the occasion was the presentation of the ITS Award for Outstanding Contribution to Respiratory Medicine to a very worthy recipient and a great friend and supporter of the Irish Thoracic Society, Professor JJ Gilmartin. Thanks to Dr Michael O’Mahony and his colleagues in Galway for reintroducing the ITS to the in-person educational experience in style. Thanks also to all those who presented cases at the meeting, guest speakers, chairs and sponsors for all their input and efforts in making this meeting such a success. As travel to international conferences resumed in 2022 the ITS was delighted to once again offer educational bursaries to the ATS (supported by A Menarini) and to the ERS and BTS (supported by GSK).
As respiratory healthcare emerges from the onslaught of COVID-19, many longstanding challenges have been laid bare. An issue of particular concern to our members across the board is in relation to access to diagnostics caused by resourcing deficits in pulmonary function laboratories and the challenge of increased infection control measures as a result of COVID 19. In collaboration with colleagues from the Irish Institute of Clinical Measurement Physiology (IICMP) the Irish Thoracic Society spearheaded a media and advocacy campaign in partnership with the Irish Lung Health Alliance to coincide with World Lung Day in September. This culminated in a meet and greet with 23 public representatives, affording members of the Irish Lung Health Alliance the opportunity to outline key areas of concern including the infrastructural and personnel needs of pulmonary function laboratories as the primary gateway to diagnosis and ongoing therapy and care for respiratory patients. Subsequent parliamentary questions have resulted in a clear commitment by the Department of Health to the imminent appointment of the new role of Chief Health and Social Care Professionals (HSCP) Officer within the department. Thanks to GSK for their unrestricted support of this project.
The Irish Thoracic Society Tobacco Advisory Group, chaired by Professor Luke Clancy, has been working to progress the cause of tobacco control from the important perspective of respiratory healthcare. A survey conducted by Vice Chair of the Group Dr Stanley Miller on awareness and implementation of the HSE Tobacco free campus measures will be presented at the meeting and offers interesting insights into the challenges around this policy . The Irish Thoracic Society is also a member of the Tobacco 21 Alliance, advocating for the legal age of sale of tobacco products and e-cigarettes in Ireland to be raised from 18 to 21.
The Society has been campaigning for many years alongside colleagues involved in TB care, led by Professor Joseph Keane, for a National TB Control Programme and in particular the appointment of a National TB Controller. We are delighted to report the recent appointment of Dr Mary O’Meara as the new Director of Public Health, National Tuberculosis (TB) Lead and to learn of her plans which include reconvening the National TB Advisory Committee and establishing a National TB Control Programme.
Membership of the Society grew in 2022 thanks to the ongoing expansion of the respiratory healthcare sector. New members are attracted by the broad range of activities that the Society undertakes on behalf of its members and benefits such as access to information, educational and research opportunities and discounted membership to the ERS. The latter reinforces the long-standing and mutually beneficial collaboration between the two Societies in the areas of respiratory education, science, advocacy and leadership. For example we have recently joined the ERS led International Respiratory Coalition which has been established with a vision to transform post pandemic respiratory care and reduce respiratory deaths globally by one third by 2030.
A very special feature of this year’s meeting will take place as part of the Gala Dinner on Friday evening when it will be a great honour to present the Irish Thoracic Society Award for Outstanding Contribution to Respiratory Medicine to a very deserving and highly respected recipient who has contributed greatly to Respiratory Medicine in Ireland and beyond over a long career.
The success of all these initiatives is only possible thanks to the support of members, partner organisations and our partners from the pharmaceutical and medical devices sectors. This support is hugely appreciated and we look forward to continued collaboration in 2023 and beyond.
Dr Marcus Butler
President, the Irish Thoracic Society