"When we facilitate collaboration between different countries, we will gain much more knowledge"
Profile: Prof. Jens Sønksen succeeds Prof. Manfred Wirth as EAU treasurer
Prof. Jens Sønksen (DK) has a long history at the EAU. A member since 1996, he was part of the Scientific Congress Office from 2012 to 2017 and has served as Adjunct Secretary General - Clinical Practice since 2017. When the executive board, in the absence of Prof. Sønksen, discussed whom to suggest for the upcoming vacancy for treasurer, they decided to recommend a reliable force. Bring in Prof. Sønksen. “I was very honoured and proud, and I felt deep respect,” the newly appointed treasurer shared. “I hope to do it as well as my predecessor Prof. Manfred Wirth (DE) did. I will do whatever I can to be a treasurer that the EAU members are pleased with.”
Having been the president of the Danish Association of Urology and the chairman of the EU-financed collaboration between Denmark and Sweden named ReproUnion, which aims to manage and prevent fertility problems, Prof. Sønksen has gained relevant experience which prepared him for his new role. “Although I have never held the title of treasurer before, I have a lot of experience, both nationally and internationally. And as professor of urology at the University of Copenhagen, I also have to manage finances,” he stated.
“In my view, being a treasurer of an organisation such as the EAU is slightly different from, let’s say, a private company. The EAU is an organisation where a considerable part of the funds comes from paying members living all around the world. You should have a deep respect for that, and consequently employ a much more cautious investment strategy.”
What can you say about the position of the EAU at present?
Prof. Sønksen: “We are still in a strong position despite the challenges we are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once again, things changed almost overnight just like they did back in 2008. The EAU proved that it was able to handle the financial crisis back then and I believe we shall be able to handle the current challenges, too.”
“However, COVID is changing the world, so including the medical world and not least its financial aspects. Before COVID, we already noticed a trend of decreasing sponsorships for the national societies and also for the EAU itself. It has not become easier to obtain sponsorships and other types of funding during the pandemic. And yet we are still in good financial shape. In respect of that, I have to mention Prof. Wirth, who has held this position for seventeen years. His time as a treasurer has been hugely successful. Sitting with him in the executive board for five years now, I have learned a lot from him, and I’ll do my best to bring that experience with me.”
“I see a lot of opportunities for the EAU to expand. One of them is to strengthen our political profile in a European context and I feel we have taken a great step towards that with the establishment of the EAU Policy Office. Another development concerns patient-directed information. We want to extend our guidelines with evidence-based materials suitable for patients. EAU Patient Information is going to be a huge factor within the EAU and an EAU Patient Office has already been established.”
The roots of Prof. Sønksen’s involvement in the EAU go back to the urologist’s eagerness to educate himself and others. “I first learned about the EAU because of educational development,” he recalled. "I took some courses and was involved in symposia."
"After I had become an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen in 2003, I created a platform in my department for the development of more clinical science. I had many young colleagues who were very active in the EAU. They suggested that I should apply for a position at the scientific office. That’s how this was set in motion.”
Prof. Sønksen’s roots as urologist are in his home country Denmark, where he learned the importance of international collaboration. “Countries such as Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Belgium are relatively small countries in comparison with Germany, France, and Italy. You see that those smaller countries work together in terms of patient mobility. Take the Øresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden, which brought Southern Sweden and the greater Copenhagen area much closer in terms of traveling time. We should utilise the expertise of, for example, a Swedish hospital highly specialised in a certain area as opposed to specialising in that same area at a Danish hospital nearby. And vice versa.”
These Danish influences contribute to who Prof. Sønksen is as an executive board member of the EAU. “I want to help build up international collaborations. When we facilitate collaboration between different countries, we will gain much more knowledge, knowledge which will be useful for patients in all countries under the umbrella of the EAU.”