by Paul Boon, EAN President Elect
Dear EAN members, dear friends and colleagues,
Since being voted into the position of EAN President Elect almost two years ago, I have found that I have had at least one thing in common with students, trainees, and residents in neurology: our roles are essentially defined by what we will be doing in the future. However, the younger generations in the early stages of careers in our profession are clearly in a much harder position than me. Not only have our budding neurologists witnessed a whole catalogue of new pressures and challenges emerging in medical healthcare because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the education and training they receive has in many cases also been interrupted and postponed for the same reason.
So, when I learned last year that the European Commission had formally adopted a proposal to make 2022 the European Year of Youth, I was delighted. At any time, this would be a fantastic commitment on the part of the Commission, to support, encourage and listen to young people; but it is especially welcome right now, coming at a moment in history when large proportions of our youth have undergone unprecedented disruption to their education and their lives in general.
I know I speak for the EAN board, past and present, when I say that it has always been vital to our mission that we support young neurologists and students and show the youngest generations that there is a clear pathway into our field. This decision from the European Commission to ‘honour and support the generation that has sacrificed the most during the pandemic’, ‘encourage all young people to become active citizens and actors of positive change’, and ‘promote opportunities to support their personal, social and professional development’, feels perfectly aligned with EAN’s existing ethos.
Here, I want to draw your attention to the large number of programmes and resources that we currently provide. Partly to remind ourselves that we are on a very positive track, but also to gear our minds towards what else we can do to encourage and energise the young people who show curiosity for our profession. Aside from the simple fact that we should always be proud to demonstrate the benefits and pleasures of working in neurology, our field is also in need of fresh recruits to a workforce that currently stands somewhere around one neurologist per 10,000 patients.
When we look at the EAN from this perspective, it is important to first mention the EAN Resident and Research Fellow Section (RFFS) and their close involvement in our society and congress activities. The RRFS offers a crucial link between generations within the EAN, serving as the ‘youth branch’ of the organisation while also providing delegates to scientific panels and representing the collective interests of junior colleagues in all kinds of decision-making processes, including on the EAN Board. Being an RRFS member also brings access to many of our initiatives, including our range of EAN grants, free registration for the EAN Annual Congress (also a perk for Student Members), and access to congress content such as the ‘Coffee With You’ sessions, which provide a chance to chat with professors in a closed, live-streamed, meeting.
It is very hard to imagine a more valuable learning resource than a placement in a working department under the tutelage of recognised experts. EAN Clinical Fellowship and Research Fellowship programmes have been running for several years, racking up a constant stream of grateful and satisfied Fellows, many of whom have shared their experiences with us on EANpages, and in June last year, we announced the latest addition to this set, the Student Teaser Fellowship. Of all the EAN support programmes, this most neatly fits the spirit of the European Year of Youth, as it aims at the youngest target group in our profession: medical students, including those right at the start of their studies. Application for the next round of Student Teaser Fellowships opens today, 1 February, until 31 March, so please, spread the word to your friends, colleagues, and the medical students in your institution!
Group events are also an important strand of our approach to supporting young people. The EAN Spring School, Autumn School, and new Science School, all offer trainees valuable in-person learning opportunities, just as our e-education learning resources, such as webinars, webcasts and the Virtual Master Classes ensure that we are always able to reach out to our learners, even in the most challenging circumstances we have known. Our annual congress too—whether in its traditional format, online, or hybrid—is yet another chance for us to cater directly to youth. Aside from the variety of special sessions tailored especially to trainees’ and residents’ needs, we are also proud to offer bursaries that provide hundreds of RRFS members with free registration and accommodation. I am pleased to say that bursaries and grants which recipients have not been able to make use of for the last two years of virtual-only congresses will be honoured at this year’s meeting, meaning that—appropriately—we should see an especially youthful crowd at EAN 2022.
Finally, our new Mentorship programme is a step into new territory for EAN, beyond the usual educational and financial initiatives. As many of us know, it is often the personal relationships that are the magic ingredient in a career in neurology; simple advice and encouraging words from an experienced colleague can make a key difference in our personal, social and professional development. This new programme aims to facilitate exactly that kind of support for our young members, and has already matched its first pairs of mentors and mentees, who will spend at least one year in regular contact. Application for the next round—for both mentors and mentees—is open now until mid-March, so I would strongly encourage anyone who would like to make a valuable contribution to supporting the next generation of neurology professionals to apply as a mentor right away.
In the European Year of Youth, this is your chance to make an immediate difference to the progress of our successors.
Paul Boon, EAN President Elect