Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons elections have commenced. Will it result in positive change?

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has been rocked by the scandal of there being a culture of bullying, harassment and sexual discrimination in the Expert Advisory Group’s Draft Report that was handed down just over a week ago.  We have seen a formal apology from the President of the RACS and a promise that there is going to be change.  RACS policy and culture is determined by RACS Council which is made up of elected Fellows. 

Without doubt, the EAG Report is the ‘biggest ticket’ item that requires the attention of the RACS Council. The final EAG Report and the recommendations that arise from it will again place the RACS in the public spotlight.  The RACS has been applauded for commissioning the independent EAG Report which had every expectation of producing findings that would be highly damaging to the reputation of the surgical profession. When the RACS announces how it intends on tackling bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment for the future could be a watershed moment in the credibility for the organization and profession.

Right now is an extremely important time for the RACS. Voting in the elections for members of the RACS Council opened on Friday 18 September and will close on Monday 5 October 2015.  How the Fellows of the RACS vote could impact on public confidence on how serious the organization is in tackling bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment.  

There are 38 candidates for the 8 positions that are up for grabs.  The EAG Report should be the biggest ticket item on the agenda, but only 10 candidates have made mention of issues surrounding the findings of this report.  That’s right, only 10 candidates thought the issue important enough to place in their electoral statements.  Of those 10 candidates, 5 are women.  It gets very interesting when we consider that there are only 6 candidates who are women. It is clear that women consider the findings of the EAG Report to be of considerable importance and arguably more so than their male counterparts.

Let’s also look at the ethnicity of the candidates.  Of the 38 candidates, 34 are Caucasian, 2 Chinese and 2 from the subcontinent.  Of further interest, surgeons who either currently hold senior positions within the RACS or have done so in the very recent past have nominated 22 of the 38 candidates.  These nominating surgeons carry very high profiles and are highly respected within the profession and their support of a candidate does carry weight.  If this were not the case, candidates would not seek to have their names listed next to theirs in their electoral statements.  Alternatively, rather than these candidates seeking to have such nominators, could it be a case of like minded candidates being the ones who get the tap on the shoulder?

The average age of the candidates is 56 years, ranging from 34 to 72 years. The majority of candidates are clustered between 50 to 60 years of age. There are only 5 candidates who are less than 50 years of age. There is only one candidate who is less than 40 years of age.  How dare this person run for RACS Council you might ask?

The youngest candidate is Dr Nikki Stamp who has everything working against her in having any chance of being elected.  Apart from being female, she is also by far the youngest candidate and does not have the nomination support of the high profile RACS 'heavyweights'.  She is however, passionate about equality in all aspects of healthcare and determined to see the RACS make a difference with the issue of bullying, harassment and sexual discrimination.  She has her own stories but right now there is a bigger missionat hand and in order to make a difference, she needs to be elected to the RACS Council. She will disrupt the RACS Council but for all the right reasons.

If you are Fellow of the RACS and feel serious about change, do vote for Dr Nikki Stamp.  If otherwise, tell surgeons that you do know, to not just consider her candidature, but to vote for her. 

The RACS needs to change but the demographics of those who seek positions on the RACS Council makes me nervous about what the future holds.


For those interested, this previous piece "Action Must Speak Louder Than Words" which is  about the EAG Report may be of interest

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