Prof. Walter Artibani: Finding the balance between scientific innovation and education in all EAU activities

Wed, 30 Jul 2014

Professor Walter Artibani will end his second term as Adjunct Secretary General, responsible for Science at the annual Congress in Madrid 2015. In this interview he elaborates upon the challenges, successes and the rewards of the position he has held since 2007.

Professor Artibani has always focussed on the most current developments and technologies, as evidenced by his current focus on robot-assisted laparoscopy. He has a very prolific publishing career, having been credited with more than 150 papers in international peer-reviewed journals. Moreover, he has been involved in several international and Italian clinical research trials.

“Being invited to become part of the EAU executive has been an extremely valuable personal and professional experience. I remember it was a December night, 8 years ago, and I was just leaving the hospital in Padua to go home, when I got a call from Pierre Teillac [Former EAU Secretary General], asking me to become part of the Executive Committee.” Knowing that this was a demanding commitment, Professor Artibani hesitated at first, but accepting was “one of the best personal and professional decisions I have ever made”.

The main role of Adjunct Secretary General-Science is to act as facilitator of the activities of various offices: the Scientific office, the EAU Sections, the European School of Urology, the Guidelines Office and others like the Regional Meetings Office and the EAU Research Foundation. The aim is to have the best possible integration and coordination, and avoid competing or overlapping initiatives. Artibani sees his role “not as a matter of imposing your ideas. The responsible for Science must facilitate the implementation of ideas of others, keeping in mind that the needs of our members always come first, and that the majority of EAU members are not academics.”

One of the main challenges of his role was finding the balance between scientific innovation and education in all EAU activities, while striving for the best quality available: “We always have to ensure that we provide the latest news, and quality will always be the main criterion, but information must also be relatable, and provide members what they need in their everyday clinical practice.” The EAU sections are pivotal to this end. They gather experts in each urologic super speciality, and form the backbone of the organisation. To make their work easier, reference bylaws were produced, tested and refined over the last five years. This ensured the coordinated development of the activities of the various sections and a better integrated activities programme.

As Adjunct, responsible for science, Artibani had to deal with controversy. For example, one of the most popular and successful events at the EAU Annual Congress is the live surgery day. However, its educational value has been under close scrutiny in the last few years. Some scientific bodies decided to ban live surgery as a consequence of major complications. At the EAU, a working group was formed that, following a rigorous consensus finding process, established a mandatory regulatory framework that must be followed to obtain EAU endorsement. The application procedure is available on Uroweb and a paper on the subject was recently published in European Urology. The most exciting project is a prospective outcome database of all live surgery cases during events endorsed by EAU.

Another area in which Professor Artibani contributed to the improvement of the EAU procedures is the setting up of the Search and Nomination Committee, which ensures that the election of members of the Executive and Chairs of the different EAU offices is as open and effective as possible.

For Artibani, none of this would have been possible without “feeling like part of a big family, not only the Executive, but also the EAU Central Office.” The diversity of the Executive Committee, in terms of personality and nationality, was a veritable intercultural experience, but it worked because they all strived towards shared goals. “There were times when difficult decisions had to be made, and when the members of the Executive had different views. But we always found a way to discuss every option. Nobody imposed his personal view; everyone was ready to take a step back and agree with the decision that was in the best interest of the EAU and its members.”

“The EAU is going to face new challenges and new opportunities, as the present scenario can change considerably. The future new Adjunct Secretary General responsible for Science is expected to propose and implement new ideas and novel projects. I am sure that whoever follows will do a great job enhancing the scientific profile of our organization.”

The EAU is looking for a new Adjunct Secretary General, responsible for Science to join the EAU Executive. Prof. Walter Artibani will finish his second four-year term by the 30th Annual EAU Congress in Madrid, and the Search & Nomination committee is looking for a suitable replacement. Experienced EAU members are invited to submit an application by September 15th!

Please click here for more information on applying >