Message from President

Michael Tonkin

Ulrich, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured and daunted by the privilege you have bestowed upon me. In this address I have three tasks, the first of which is a delightful pleasure - that being to acknowledge the contribution of IFSSH President, 2010-2013, Ulrich Mennen. No previous IFSSH President has been more determined, more involved, or demonstrated greater leadership during his term of office. His close associations with Secretary-General Zsolt Szabo, the IFSSH Executive Committee and Secretariat have led to an optimal coordination of IFSSH activities. The establishment of the IFSSH ezine is entirely due to the efforts of Ulrich. This has become a communication vehicle for the Federation, reaching over 10,000 subscribers, and is perhaps one of the most effective methods of bringing the hand surgery world together. He has revamped the IFSSH Scientific Committees, leading to an orderly presentation and publication of these committee reports, and established a structure ensuring the worth and continuity of reports with publication in the ezine, on the IFSSH website, and within a special booklet to be produced at each IFSSH Congress. Ulrich, along with Zsolt, established a relationship with the Russian Society for Surgery of the Hand which led to the successful application of the Russian Society as a member society. The Bolivian Society has also joined our family and the combined Scandinavian Society is now represented by its individual four societies: Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Ulrich gave of his time to instruct in invaluable regional courses in Hungary and Russia, fulfilling a basic tenet of our Charter.

Ulrich, South African by birth, has been a contributor at all levels, local hospital and district, national and international levels. He is a serious and studious man but despite the worth of his contributions, these alone do not define the substance of the man: to understand him is to know Ulrich the sportsman, to know the humour of the man, the friendship of the man and the devoted family man, husband of Jo and father of three impressive children.

Ulrich steps down from the Presidency but as Immediate Past President he remains an active member of the Executive Committee. He chairs the Nominating Committee and, as for Napoleon after any successful campaign, the challenges remain ahead. Ulrich, thank you and please accept this certificate in acknowledgement of your term as President of the International Federation of Societies for Surgery of the Hand.

My second task is to announce the 2013-2016 Executive Committee.

Zsolt Szabo is our President Elect, having completed a very impressive term as Secretary-General in a successful partnership with President Ulrich Mennen. Zsolt is as enthusiastic and energetic a person as the convenor of our current Congress, Raja Sabapathy - few have such energy. As Secretary-General, he managed the day to day affairs of the Federation with minimal fuss and maximal efficiency, organised the Eastern European Hand Surgery Course in Hungary, joined Ulrich in meeting with the Russian Society and teaching at Russian Society courses, and has been instrumental in establishing the future official framework of the IFSSH as a charitable organisation with its bank account housed in Switzerland. He is a very worthy President Elect. I am delighted to present Zsolt with his official certificate to acknowledge his contribution as Secretary-General.

Marc Garcia-Elias moves to the Secretary-General position. No President could wish for a better colleague as Secretary-General. Although the sophistication of the tasks of Secretariat and Executive Committee members have increased, the Secretary-General position remains the engine room of the Executive Committee of the Federation.

Daniel Nagle, a past President of the American Society, joins us as Secretary-General Elect.

Ulrich Mennen moves to the position of Immediate Past-President.

We are fortunate that we retain the wisdom and commonsense of our IFSSH Historian, Frank Burke, who has been responsible for collecting, collating and documenting the archives of the Federation and committing them to an electronic file - a substantial undertaking.

Lastly, I would welcome Moroe Beppu from Japan to the appointment of Member-at-Large. This is an important position, providing as it does a member from the Delegates' Council to assist the three most recent Past-Presidents in their roles as members of the Nominating Committee, responsible for the assessment of nominated Pioneers and the nomination of Executive Committee members.

My final task is to address you as incoming IFSSH President. This is difficult. I looked to the experiences of the five previous IFSSH Presidents: Yasuo Yamauchi (Japan, 1998-2001), Guy Foucher (France, 2001-2004), Arlindo Pardini (Brazil, 2004-2007), Jim Urbaniak (USA, 2007-2010) and Ulrich. These are all dignified, elegant and impressive men. In comparison, I feel wanting. My wife has informed me that no matter what form of dress, no matter how I comb my hair, or even if bald, I will never appear either dignified or Presidential. In considering the geographic spread of the previous five Presidents, perhaps there is an improved symmetry to the world map if an Australian is invited to the position of IFSSH President and our Federation is reintroduced to the exotic residents of Australia - the kangaroo, the platypus, the koala and kookaburra amongst others. I say "reintroduced" as Bernard McC. O'Brien from Melbourne was IFSSH President from 1980 to 1983. He was a towering figure in the worlds of hand surgery and microsurgery and one who was lost to us at far too young an age, as he had so much more to contribute.

In anticipating the course of my term of office, I ask myself what I have to offer. I considered the recent contributions of Jim Urbaniak and Ulrich Mennen. Here I pause to acknowledge the outstanding service of Jim Urbaniak to the IFSSH. He has been part of the Executive for 18 years and, during that time, he has become the current father of the IFSSH, the one to whom we all turn for advice, particularly when there are ticklish problems confronting us. These problems are always met with wise words and a gentle smile. Jim achieved a remarkable feat during his Presidency, that being to produce a magnificent book entitled "Hand Surgery Worldwide" which contains the history of each of the 50 member societies of the IFSSH, along with a number of classical clinical and scientific articles. Jim will remain with us as a member of the Nominating Committee and we welcome his continued presence. I have discussed the achievements of Ulrich Mennen. In comparison with these two, I regret that I don't have a single project which will define my Presidency, a mission or a vision. I feel a little like the boy, or one of the two dogs depicted in this picture in which the three are isolated on a seat in the centre of a flooded river.

I reflect upon the IFSSH Charter. Article 3 describes the aim of the Federation, the chief purposes of which are detailed in 11 principles. I summarise these in the following manner: we are responsible for disseminating knowledge of hand surgery; we should support the development of hand surgery in underdeveloped countries; and we should foster friendship between nations and individuals.

The first of these purposes - teaching - caused me to remember my own teachers. Bill Lennon, an orthopaedic surgeon from Sydney, will be unknown to most in this room. However, it was he who first inspired my fascination with and devotion to the field of hand surgery. Frank Burke continued this during my hand surgery fellowship in Derby. One of his teachers, Adrian Flatt, was a teacher from afar through his writings and I covet the memorable occasions on which we meet. I spent 12 months in Louisville in 1984 at a time of great excitement during the development and application of microsurgical techniques to hand surgery. I am indebted to Harold Kleinert and his group. Specifically, Graham Lister was the most superb didactic teacher I have encountered. The precision of Dieter Buck-Gramcko's teaching of congenital hand surgery drew me to this field of hand surgery, for which I am ever grateful. I consider Eduardo Zancolli Sr to be one of two geniuses of orthopaedic surgery whom I have met, the other being Sir John Charnley. His knowledge of anatomy and application of an innovative mind to the surgery of patients afflicted with cerebral palsy, rheumatoid arthritis and tetraplegia were the basic pillars of my hand surgery learning.

These teachers, amongst many others, inspired a passion for teaching and it is this which I believe I can offer to the International Federation as President over the next three years. It may also be applied to the second purpose of supporting the development of hand surgery, particularly in underdeveloped countries. The IFSSH Executive Committee, through its Committee for Educational Sponsorship, has identified the following four areas worthy of receiving both financial and teaching support:

  1. Special education projects, such as the production of the IFSSH Terminology booklet and the "Making a Thumb" DVD; the funding of fellowship projects such as that at Baragwanath Hospital in South Africa; and the support of affiliated groups such as the International Federation of Societies for Hand Therapy.
  2. The second component of support is that for individual society congresses and courses, through provision of speakers, support of registrations, and provision of equipment where appropriate.
  3. Thirdly we can assist in the organisation of regional courses such as the Eastern European Hand Course held in Hungary in 2012, through the provision of teachers and the support of registrants' fees.
  4. Fourthly, we will continue the financial support for financially disadvantaged surgeons to attend IFSSH Congresses.

I commend these projects to you. All societies should consider how they may be involved.

Finally, the third purpose: we are not isolated as individuals or as stand-alone societies. Our international friendships allow us to understand and assist in solving the problems of others. The triennial congress and the interaction between societies through the ezine, the website and projects listed above, allow people from all parts of the world to communicate and to contribute. I look around at the members of this audience and am appreciative of what a wonderful privilege this is.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have attended a marvellous congress. We should be grateful to the Indian Society, Raja Sabapathy, his committees and all included in the congress organisation, for an outstanding achievement. I encourage all of you to support Eduardo Zancolli Jr and the Argentinian surgeons and therapists by joining together again in Buenos Aires in 2016.