The Travelling Surgical Society of Great Britain and Ireland

Belgium May 2017

In 2017 we visited Belgium for the fifth time though this was our first visit to Ghent, where we stayed for the whole week at the NH Hotel, within walking distance of its main tourist sites. In Ghent, Brugges and Brussels we had an academic all-day meeting at each of three major hospitals where we learnt about current working between the university and the community at the first two, and the role of the military at the third (The Queen Astrid Military Hospital, QAMH), which is a major Burns Centre and dealt with the consequences of the 2016 terrorist bombing of Brussels’ airport and metro system.

There was also competition at each hospital for the now well-established Registrar’s Prize, each won by a female trainee. Our group of 40 included four who attended briefly and two Travelling Fellows on a Price Thomas Bursary who each presented two papers: Ernest Azzopardi, pre-FRCS currently in Swansea with a strong research interest, and post-Fellowship hepato-biliary surgeon Andrew Healey who was studying endoscopic ultra-sound at the St Raffaele Hospital in Milan: he talked about this and about HPB training. Ernest Azzopardi discussed novel approaches to infection, including a method for bedside detection of early infection in wounds, burns especially.

Under President Terry Irwin, the visit was the first organised by Colonel Simon Mellor as TSS Secretary. Key individuals at each hospital were Dr Dirk Bernard (Medical Director of AZ Sint Lucas Hospital in Brugge), Professor Piet Pattyn at UZ Gent, and Colonel Guy Borgers, Director of the Queen Astrid Military Hospital where we also saw the very modern Burns Unit. All gave us superb meetings. Incidentally, AZ stands for Academic Hospital, UZ for University Hospital, and SZ for community hospital. Slightly confusing is the different spelling between nations of the cities we visited: Brussels (Bruxelles, Brussel), Ghent (Gant, Gand or ancient Ghendt) Bruges (Brugge) and Ypres (Ieper, or ‘Wipers’ to the Tommies of the First World War).

Our visit included guided tours of Ghent, Bruges and the battlefields of the Salient around Ypres where we attended the Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate, held daily for thousands of people, schoolchildren included, lest we forget our freedom has been preserved by the sacrifices of the First World War, a conflict which gave rise to our own organisation.

Tim Williams      13 May 2017

Click image to enlarge     


The 2016 Home meeting took place at St George’s London.  A report is at the foot of the page of Home meetings

In April 2016 we learnt of the death of Adrian Marston, former Vascular Surgeon at The Middlesex Hospital, London. Jeffrey Adrian Preistley Marston was a true polymath and a great linguist.  He served as Honorary Secretary to the Society from 1971-1975.  A full obituary can be found here.  Further details of a celebration of his life will be posted in due course.

In May 2015 we recorded the death at the age of 87 of Alan Green, our Archivist and committed chronicler of the history of the TSS which he supported enthusiastically since he and Doreen joined what was then the Travelling Surgical Club in 1970.  He was President from 1988-1991 and was renowned for giving his speeches in the language of the host country. His knowledge of our Society’s history and activities was legendary.  He died in Norfolk on 4th May 2015 whilst the TSS was on one of its annual foreign visits, this time to Madrid.  For a full obituary click here.  His wife Doreen died in March 2016.  A service of celebration of her life was held in Norwich Cathedral on Tuesday 19th April.

During 2015 we also heard of the death of another senior TSS member Randolph Beard; his obituary can be seen here.

The Travelling Surgical Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a group of surgeons from around the United Kingdom which travels to various hospitals and surgical departments around the world and in the UK. These are academic and clinical meetings and the purpose is to encourage educational and surgical exchanges.

In 1924 Sir Berkeley (later Lord) Moynihan held a clinical meeting in Leeds for twelve British surgeons whom he then entertained to dinner. From these roots evolved the present-day Travelling Surgical Society (TSS).

The current membership consists of about fifty surgeons of whom thirty are in active practice. The society has always maintained strong links to military surgery.

Seven of the active members are Professors of Surgery, demonstrating that we place great emphasis on academic content in our meetings. We offer two travelling fellowships each year.

In recent years members have held distinguished honours (two knights and a baron) as well as Presidencies and other leading roles with surgical Royal Colleges.

Recent membership has also boasted some unusual accolades, including an Honored Member of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists, a Lambeth Doctorate of Medicine (awarded by the Archbishop of Canterbury), a Kentucky Colonel, and a Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Merite. Our current membership even includes a Minister of Health to the last UK government.

Price Thomas Travelling Fellowship 2015

The 2015 Fellowship was awarded to Professor Nawwar Al-Attar from the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, Clydebank, Glasgow.  He travelled with us to Madrid in May and gave two excellent academic papers.

Price Thomas Travelling Fellowship 2016

The number and quality of applications for the bursary this year has been outstanding.  The judging panel, chaired by the President, deliberated hard and concluded that we should appoint two travelling fellows this year.  They will travel with us to Canada and will present two papers each at our academic session in Toronto.  They are: Mr Joseph Hardwicke.  Lecturer in Burns and Plastic Surgery at University Hopsitals Birmingham and Mr Prasanna Sooriakumaran. Senior Research Fellow in Robotics & Urology and Consultant Urological Surgeon at the University of Oxford

Price Thomas Travelling Fellowship 2017

The decision to have two Price Thomas Fellows has certainly been rewarded this year. Andrew Healey is a post CCST Fellow who gave superb talks on the value of endoscopic ultrasound in the management of difficult upper GI emergencies and the state of training for laparoscopic liver surgery in UK. In an era where antibiotic resistance is a very real threat, Ernest Azzopardi gave us some insight into cutting edge research which will differentiate infection (which needs treatment with antibiotics) from inflammation (which does not).
2018 will see the TSS in Budapest in May, and we look forward to taking two more Price Thomas Fellows with us.

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth"

Mark Twain

"When men of sober age travel, they gather knowledge which they may apply usefully in their country" 

Thomas Jefferson

"In our age such great usefulness redounds to the physician from his travels that none puts much faith in the authority of the physician who has not set foot outside his native land, and, although each may have at home in abundance those things which are necessary for medical instruction, nevertheless they ought to be strengthened or increased by a comparison with things abroad.

There is a vast delight and pleasure in gazing upon foreign lands and fields, mountains and rivers, observing the benignity of Nature's variety everywhere, the different conditions of the sick in homes and in hospitals with their great number of beds, which can readily be seen here and there, examining the methods for treating the patients, enjoying the conversation of the learned men, and calling forth their experiences, and visiting the laboratories, the furnaces of the chemists, the pharmacies and the unguent shops."

Thomas Bartholin, Danish anatomist (1616 -1680) on medical travel