In the middle of your career, pressures on you to earn a living, look after your family, develop a practice and do the best you can for your patients. You also face ever-increasing demands to meet continuing medical education requirements. Where to look for help and support? If even a small part of your practice involves minimal access surgery (and with all the evidence now available it is difficult to see how any gynaecologist who undertakes surgery will not be involved with MAS to some extent) what about making the ESGE your first port of call.

This organization played a major part in helping me in my career. I grew up professionally during the early days of the ESGE as it was morphing from the Raoul Palmer Society, I was working in a practice far from the acknowledged centres of excellence trying, in isolation, to develop some skills in endoscopic surgery. This, at times, felt a very lonely place to be and it was fantastically helpful to see and hear the great pioneers of our speciality described their work. I found it even more helpful to meet them socially and discuss on a one to basis our many common difficulties and problems.

It is wonderful to feel like a member of a caring and exciting team of like-minded colleagues rather than plodding a lone furrow. I am sure there are many of you out there still feeling like I felt and I am sure you will find the family of the ESGE will help you as much as it helped me.

I now see the ESGE from a slightly unusual viewpoint. For some time I was very close to the society and for a couple of years was its rather unmemorable secretary. At this time the society was run on almost no income and we had no logistical or other support. Perhaps my only achievement during this time was the dubious one of recognizing that this was no way to run an important society! The then President, Chris Sutton, and I therefore did lay the foundations for the development of today’s society’s super-efficient secretariat by suggesting the adoption of professionals to run the society Subsequently my career took me to Australia and an involvement with AGES and I somewhat lost touch with the ESGE. Since retirement I have returned full-time (almost) to the UK and have become re-involved with ESGE. I have been truly blown away by the developments that have occurred while my back was turned. The society is now a highly efficient organization with many elements some of which you, like me, may not be familiar with.

The society now has a wonderful permanent headquarters located in that hotbed of gynaecological endoscopy, Leuven. It is an usual building with a curious Gallic artistic focus on chickens and hens and is called The High Breed Centre. There are offices, meeting and reception rooms and I would encourage any of you visiting that delightful Belgium city to pop in and see your headquarters. In addition to its many architectural delights, this city is the Home of the Stella Brewery and what is reputedly the longest bar in the world! In the High Breed headquarters there is a veritable hive (or perhaps henhouse) of activities some of which you may not be familiar with. These activities all seek to meet the society’s mission 3 pillars that are training and education, community and science.

The work of the society in running surgical training courses of the highest possible standard is well known and continuing. I was, however, particularly impressed to learn of the extensive work being undertaken behind the scenes by the ESGE to establish a continent wide training and certification programme. This is a tricky area and much work has been undertaken to try and integrate the local national with the more broad continental needs for good training and valid certification. The society is also actively engaged with the AAGL in an attempt to establish a global education and training programme that, if successful, would be a truly remarkable and much needed achievement.

The community activities of the society are largely concerned with ensuring good communication between the board and secretariat and the members. Much work is going on in developing the society’s website and in further improving communication with the commercial partners. It was felt that with all the electronic methods of communication now available, a traditional type of newsletter with many solicited contribution was now less relevant. The society’s journal is the best way of disseminating our research material and the secretariat can communicate administrative details directly when required without waiting for a specific publication date. However it is hoped that this type of ‘personal editorial’ may also play a role in keeping everyone fully informed of the societies aims and achievements.

The third pillar of the society’s work is scientific research. The 5 Special Interest Groups (SIGS) coordinate this. These groups are 1) Endometriosis under the chairmanship of J Kerkstein 2) Innovations in Surgery – E Saridogan 3) Oncology – R Tozzi and L Mereu 4) Imaging- N Amso and Urogynaecology- A Cutner There is also a group looking at Adhesion Prevention. Each of these groups seeks to encourage original research in their field and provides a selection of the most topical speakers for their particular section during the annual meeting. Coordinating this work is becoming more important because of the possibility of obtaining major funding from the European Grant Application fund for correctly developed multinational projects (Even in these euro troubled times!).

Of course all these activities focus down on the society’s annual meeting that is to be held in Berlin. Returning from far away Australia, I was reminded just what an amazing continent Europe is with so much culture, so much variety and so much history that is all within a short journey of home. Yes these comments are indeed coming from an Englishman! Berlin has always been an exciting city and I think the eyes of the entire gynaecological endoscopic world will be on it in October. This is the place to be for all those practicing MSF but particularly for all those, feeling a little alone and would like some help and support in developing their own MAS skills.

Prof. Ray Garry