34th Conf. Christchurch 24-26 Sept. 2024
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President's Report - 2010-2011

It is an honour and my pleasure to serve (again!) as President of our Society.

This is the year in which we made the bold (and some might say risky) decision to change our name from 'ISAS - Australasian Chapter' to the 'Aeromedical Society of Australasia'. No longer would members be asked 'what is ISAS?' and 'where are the other Chapters?' Now our name leaves that history behind and simply reflects the work we are all involved in; that of aeromedicine. It is also a name resonating with organisations around the world which use similar terms (aeromedical, aeromed, airmed, etc) to describe themselves.

This process is now complete with a new logo, updated official documentation and a revitalised and expanded website. It hasn't been as simple a task as you might imagine and I'm grateful to the Committee of the Society, particularly our Secretary, Geri Malone, vice President Graeme Field and Treasurer Chris Webber for completing the transition.

I'm aware that other organisations have remonstrated with their membership (in jocular fashion) to help 'forget' old terminology. The Medevac Foundation which was previously FARE threatened members with making a donation if anyone made reference to 'FARE' again! I'm thinking we should have a square cookie jar[1] for the deposit of fines by those who forget the change and still make reference to 'ISAS', I'm putting everyone on notice that in Perth there will be no mercy shown to those who talk about 'ISAS'!
Speaking of Perth, like you, I am particularly looking forward to our meeting in Western Australia. We last held the annual scientific meeting in WA in 2004 in Fremantle and had a great meeting and a great time. I'm confident the 2011 conference will exceed everyone's expectations and inspire us all. It hasn't been an easy conference for the local organisers; with most brought in later than usual to pick up the responsibility for arrangements. May I particularly thank Dr Sally Edmonds who has led that group? She could probably have done without the stresses involved; and would no doubt say that she isn't the only one to contribute - but there always has to be a leader and she has been that!

During the year the Committee has increased the role of Kate Smith Events in supporting the local organising committee. There are now procedures which document the responsibilities of the local organising committee and Kate Smith Events. This will make future conferences much easier for the local members; with the increasing and better defined partnership with Kate Smith Events. I can speak for the whole Committee in thanking Kate Smith herself for helping forge this successful relationship. We are putting the final touches on a new agreement which will formalise this for several years in advance.

The more material challenges facing the Society are to maintain an outward focus. What do I mean by that? Well for all of us there are daily challenges in our own fields of endeavour, our own organisations and our own geographical area of responsibility. These require a lot of energy and focus which tend to make it difficult to see the bigger picture. We each work to solve problems in our own clinical and operational contexts and, by default, to that internally. It's often only when we fail to find a solution internally that we seek one outside.

I'd like to see the Society increase its role as a forum for exchange of ideas; a clearing house for solutions. We've struggled for many years to develop consensus documents as basic standards for use by anyone seeking a 'framework'. With some notable exceptions (eg. the work done by Ambulance NZ on air ambulance and SAR standards) the development of standards has been a slow and incomplete process. There is much yet to be done.

I have no doubt that we all value the networking opportunities provided by the annual Scientific Meeting when we meet new friends and old. That however, is a once a year event and I'd like to see the Society exploring ways to maintain those interactions around the calendar.

The periodic Newsletter have been a great feature of the Society's life and appreciated by all but ask anyone who has edited the Newsletter and they will tell you how difficult it is to elicit material from members to supply content sufficient for regular publication. It is tough!

We also face the problem that maintaining, let alone increasing membership is a continuing challenge. I believe the Society needs to regularly ask what members want from their membership and seek to better meet their needs. However, from our small membership we need to expand the group who work to meet those needs while working to increase the total membership and increase the numbers of those who work to realise the Society's potential. In other words, it is a circular chain from which we need to break free.

May I set the following challenge to our existing members? Nominate 5 new members to join the Society…. They may be from your own organisation or from others. It doesn't matter. Be an advocate for the Society. Email them with the Society's web page. Entice them with the prospect of the attending the annual meeting. Encourage them to present their work, their ideas and their experience. Seduce them with the possibility of winning the $3,000 scholarship - awarded annually.

I believe there are other ways to meet these challenges. Some have been taken already. The engagement by our Society of an events company to lead the organisation and coordination of the annual scientific meeting (in partnership with a local organising committees), is one very important one. As already mentioned, this will be a relief to previous local organisers who have had to learn lots of things from scratch without much corporate knowledge transfer from one year to the next.

The Society has maintained and nurtured relationships with similar organisations in Europe and North America. I believe there are opportunities to forge relationships with evolving aeromedical communities closer to home; thinking of Asia in particular. Japan has had a HEMS system for just over 10 years. China is about to embark on the development of one from almost a zero base. In other parts of Asia, quite sophisticated aeromedical resources have been developed. For instance I was recently on a neonatal retrieval from Thailand where we had the choice of a Bell 412, an EC 145, a Cessna Caravan, a Beech 200, a Beech 350 or a Beech 800 for the domestic leg of the mission! I was naturally impressed and more than a little envious!

Whether new or existing these services are looking to grow and learn from international bench-marking. They want to interact with services and peer-group organisations around the world for models to emulate and/or adapt to local needs. The Society can contribute to this growth and evolution through forming links to share ideas and learn from each other.

Finally, I'd like to suggest that modern social media tools might increase the dialogue between our members; and increase the participation rate amongst those members in such activities as joining the Society's Committee (Board), being part of a local organising committee and developing new standards and enhancing existing ones. Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Google+ and the many others have rapidly found a place in most parts of modern life and have become self-sustaining forums for interchange. Although their use and content is often considered banal, these social media tools are moving into more serious areas of life - including professional peer groups such as ours.

I'd like to thank the members of the Committee for their contribution to the Society throughout the year. The work of the Committee is mostly done by telephone conference. It is not an easy process; especially as Committee members have demands on their time from their jobs which often exceed the available hours of the day! I thank them for giving so generously of their time and their expertise in this way.

See you in Perth!

Andrew Berry
President President@AeromedSocAustralasia.org

[1]A reference to a certain Australian politician's comments - made I recall while our Society met in Christchurch NZ in 2010.

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