As we approach the end of 2020, and look forward to a new year, I think we can all agree that this year has been unlike any other. In January, we started hearing reports from China about a new respiratory disease, and saw it rapidly impact Wuhan, and then escalate to a lock-down in China, before escalating to impact international travel. As I flew from Australia to Hawaii in early February, travel from China to many parts of the world was closing, and when I returned home 2 weeks later the situation was moving fast. We have all now seen national borders close and international travel severely disrupted, and this ultimately impacted our ability to travel to Toronto for the ISDE’s 2020 Congress. I am also aware that I haven’t left my own Australian State since February, and even though Australia has been less affected than Europe and the Americas, it has still been through “lock-downs” and we are yet to return to a situation that resembles what we previously took for granted. Even though mass vaccines now seem to be just over the horizon, it is likely we will continue to experience travel restrictions and need to continue with public health measures for a further 12 months.
To respond to the challenges of this environment, and then thrive, ISDE has rapidly adjusted what it does and how it operates. I have been impressed by how well the Society has pivoted to Zoom, and also by the enthusiasm and support from many members from around the World who are serving the membership by developing and leading online education and other activities. ISDE’s webinars are delivering education and keeping us in contact with our friends and peers. These webinars have delivered content pertinent to the impact of COVID on the management of esophageal disease, a virtual tumour board, and the best of the best free papers submitted for our delayed 2020 congress. Online events have greatly expanded the reach of ISDE, and they will continue across the coming year and beyond. If you have ideas for more, or want to get more involved, please let us know.
As I look towards the next 12 months, I am confident that there is much that the ISDE can still accomplish. The COVID world has opened up new opportunities for engagement, and the ISDE has a unique opportunity to enhance its offerings to members, to grow membership, and further cement itself as the peak international organisation for esophageal disease. As President, my hope is that we can build on the opportunities that 2021 will bring, engage even more effectively with the membership despite the limitations imposed by the global pandemic, and that the ISDE will emerge as a stronger and more effective organisation in the post-pandemic world.
As we approach the end of the year, I hope all of the ISDE members around the world have an opportunity to rest and catch their breath – after 2020 we all need to! For many of you this is a holiday season – Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! For some of you there is some more significance at this time – Merry Christmas!