A year after: An interview with Prof. N’Dow

03 November 2021 By Erika De Groot

Profiles: Updates from the EAU Adjunct Secretary General – Education

As of EAU21, Prof. James N’Dow (GB) is succeeding Prof. Van Poppel (BE) as Adjunct Secretary General – Education. In this exclusive interview, the former Chair of the EAU Guidelines Office Prof. N’Dow talked about his current role and his vision, updates on his PIONEER programme, and the people who inspired him.

What does your position entail and what are your aspirations in this role?
It is an incredible honour to be entrusted with the EAU Adjunct Secretary General – Education position. The core mission of the EAU is to improve the quality of urological care. To provide our 19,000 EAU members with exceptional resources that help them in their daily clinical practice, education is a fundamental aspect in achieving this goal.

My team and I aim to truly understand the individual and collective endeavours of the many talented people involved in education within and beyond the EAU. Together, we will evaluate and see how our aspirations align with the expectations of the EAU members and the patients we all serve.

My role involves ensuring connectivity and collaborations across the EAU and its different Offices in terms of activities relating to education to harness diverse, complementary expertise across within and beyond the organisation; to limit unnecessary duplication of effort; and most importantly, to ensure that we are able to demonstrate the impact of educational activities on patient outcomes and healthcare efficiency over time.

Achieving these objectives will help fulfil the hopes of patients and meet their needs, as well as, help realise the aspirations of urologists wherever they may be in the world.

You initiated the PIONEER programme, which is a project aimed to harness the potential of big data analytics as a means to ensure optimal care for European prostate cancer patients. Please tell us more about it.
A key ambition of the Guidelines Office has always been to use the best evidence available to underpin guideline recommendations. It soon became clear that the quality of the majority of published evidence is unsatisfactory as the basis for recommendations. We needed to look for innovative ways to fill the gap. The use of big data was one such option. However, to do so would require significant funding.

With the EAU’s support in partnership with its Research Foundation, the Guidelines Office put together a strong consortium to secure €12M-funding from the European Commission’s Innovative Medicines Initiative to collate the best and largest PCa datasets from within and beyond Europe. We feel fortunate to have had the privilege of working with patients, PCa specialists, scientists, epidemiologists, big-data analytics experts, ethicists, and Health Technology Assessment (HTA) experts.

In June 2021, we received confirmation of a €21.3M-funding from the European Commission’s Innovative Medicines for another Big Data project called OPTIMA, this time focussing on prostate, breast and lung cancers whereby Clinical Practice Guidelines are interfaced with Electronic Health Records and real-world data powered by Artificial Intelligence, if necessary. The OPTIMA consortium is also coordinated by the EAU.

Your other notable initiative is Horizons, which was created to increase the capacity and standard of healthcare through provision of education and training in your home country. What are Horizons’ latest developments?
Horizons now supports six childbirth facilities in The Gambia and has trained hundreds of mothers and midwives on maintaining clean, safe and infection-free childbirth environments. The Horizons Charitable Trust installed solar-power facilities, renovated rundown infrastructure, guaranteed clean safe water supplies and safe disposal of clinical waste.

When did you know that you wanted to be a urologist?
I always wanted to be a doctor but I didn’t know which speciality. My first surgical job was an attachment with the urology ward in Aberdeen. I was incredibly fortunate to work for an exceptional surgeon, John Steyn, who encouraged me to always do better.

Even though I was the most junior doctor in the department at that time, John Steyn didn’t treat me differently. Along with other senior hospital specialists, he welcomed me to his home. I admired John. He had amazing qualities as a surgeon and as a human being. He was an inspiration that cultivated my interest in the field of urology.

Who are your biggest inspirations and why?
Aside from John Steyn, I was blessed with the guidance of other exemplary mentors, two of them no longer with us sadly. Prof. Adrian Grant, who was co-Chair of the Cochrane Collaboration, trained me in a breadth of research methods which helped secure numerous research grants. Prof. Robert Pickard, an academic urologist who trained me in Newcastle. He was an outstanding academic surgeon and a kind-hearted person.

And last but definitely not least, my parents. My father was an inspirational physician and philanthropist who taught me all I know about medicine as a vocation. He taught me that curing disease was not enough; that we must commit to supporting our patients and their families to regain their quality of life.

My mother, whom I loved dearly and think of every day, was a brilliant educator. She was an empowered, strong woman who taught my siblings and I that with hard work, determination, integrity and humility, we could reach and touch the stars. She always told us that the only limits were the limits of our imagination.

Converse with and follow Prof. N’Dow on Twitter via his handle @NDowJames.

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