EANS Secretary’s Message June 2020
Tuesday 2 June 2020
While other parts of the world are still struggling with increasing numbers of patients affected by Covid-19 as the virus continues to spread over the globe, most countries in Europe are carefully starting on the path of recovery. As with the beginning of the lockdown regulations, each country is doing so at its own pace. During the past months scientists and politicians have had to compromise between scientific facts, best guesses, economic issues and humane values. For each country that compromise was somewhat different. The future will tell who was right and who was wrong. The most important thing, however, will be to learn from what has happened and adapt to that new truth. Rather than finding out who’s to blame for what went wrong, I suggest we look forward and prepare for what lies ahead.
That is exactly what EANS is doing. The EANS Board has been more active than ever before. Several important issues are being dealt with, as was mentioned in last month’s Update from the EANS President: taking necessary precautions for our Training Courses and EANS Exams in view of continuing travel restrictions, preparing the creation of the EANS Foundation to support neurosurgical scientific research, and exploring the possible options for publishing our own journal, dedicated to scientific progress in neurosurgery.
The EANS Board together with the organising committee of EANS2020 is keeping all options open for the annual congress in Belgrade, October 18 until 22. We are convinced that there is an enormous added value in meeting in person, with live presentations and discussions, as well as social events to catch up with friends and colleagues. Of course, it is unthinkable to organise mass gatherings as we used to. Therefore let’s adopt the motto “Less is more” and aim for quality time. At the same time we want to be prepared if travel restrictions are still active or would become more stringent again because of the so much anticipated second wave of Covid-19. I believe we will end up with a hybrid solution, live for those who can, virtual for those who can’t be present.
“Less is more” should also be our motto when we start reorganising our lives and professional activities after Covid-19. During the transition to a new kind of normal, we all have to provide neurosurgical care to patients that could not be treated because of restricted access to our healthcare systems. These restrictions have cost lives, and we have to find solutions to prevent this from happening in the future. On the other hand, it has become clear that some problems don’t need medicalisation to get solved. Therefore in our future new kind of normal, we have to think quality instead of quantity. Focus on a smaller number of operations and at the same time improve quality of neurosurgical care. EANS and its Sections want to help you with this by providing guidelines, producing webinars and publishing reviews.
Looking up to the sky has always inspired people to speculate on what is beyond our own world. Modern technology has immensely increased the possibilities of studying astronomy. I invite you to have a look at this picture: https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap061016.html.
It is the result of international cooperation and a good example of “Less is more”. The picture was made in 2006 by the spacecraft Cassini orbiting Saturn after a journey through space that started in 1997. Originally Cassini was accompanied by the Huygens probe, which was released from its carrier Cassini in 2005 to land on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Both Cassini and Huygens were European scientists from the 17th century who studied Saturn’s famous ring system and moons, so the spacecraft and probe were rightfully named after them. The Cassini spacecraft was a product of NASA, and Huygens a product of the European Space Agency ESA, an example of cooperation without boundaries to the benefit of humankind. The picture was taken by Cassini looking back at the sun which is eclipsed by Saturn. Thus it depicts the dark side of Saturn, which is partially lit by sunlight reflecting from the magnificent rings. By 2017, after 13 years in orbit, Cassini’s rocket fuel, used for making slight adjustments to the direction of the spacecraft, was running low. Two moons of Saturn, Titan and Enceladus, appear to contain habitable “prebiotic” environments. To prevent Cassini from contaminating these environments with material (viruses!) from planet Earth in case of a possible collision, however unlikely, it was decided to redirect the probe on a course ending in the atmosphere of Saturn where it would be incinerated by temperatures of up to several thousands °C. Instead of prolonging the observations and accumulating more data for several more years, NASA went for unique data from a course that brought Cassini through the small gap between the innermost ring and Saturn’s surface. “Less is more”, less quantity but more quality. NASA called it Cassini’s Grand Finale, the spacecraft annihilated on September 15th 2017. If you look carefully at the picture, you will notice a small dot at about 10 o’clock just outside the bright part of the rings: planet Earth at a distance of about 1.2 billion km. That’s where it’s all happening, our lockdown and release and preparations for the new normal. So let’s remain humble, and make the best of it. Such a small world in the universe, a definite call to make sure “Less is more”!
Johannes van Loon