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President's Message: Fond farewells, and looking to the future

Published: 20 Dec 2019
Category: President's message
By Steve Hill

Well, what a way to bow out as President of the British Pharmacological Society? I think Pharmacology 2019 in Edinburgh was a spectacular success and the scientific programme was truly outstanding.

This was our first annual meeting outside of London for a very long time, and I was delighted that we were able to build upon the high standards that we have established over the last few years. The meeting attracted well over 1,000 delegates, with over 340 guests joining us for our annual dinner in the amazing atrium of the National Museum of Scotland.  The science was stunning, but the meeting had a huge vibrancy about it due to the active and enthusiastic participation of our Early Career Researchers.
 
Pharmacology had faced uncertainty in the recent past as Departments of Pharmacology disappeared or were amalgamated into Life Sciences, whilst terms such as Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery Biology were used to describe what is actually bread-and-butter pharmacology. However, I don’t believe anyone in Edinburgh now feels disillusioned about the future of pharmacology. Pharmacology as a discipline is in great shape and that is largely down to the activities of our Society. 52% of our membership are Early Career Pharmacologists and the Society has championed their role as the future of our discipline. Their optimism for the future was tangible in Edinburgh and I was truly delighted by feedback that we received. The BPS family is in great shape!
 
It was with mixed emotions that I stood up to give my last after-dinner speech as your President.  I cannot believe how quickly my term has passed by. However, it is always said that time flies when you are enjoying yourself. It has been an enormous privilege to serve as your President and I think we have achieved a great deal. The role of President is effectively the same as the conductor of an orchestra. You are surrounded by brilliant and talented people and your job is to get the best out of everyone, to keep them all to time and to make sure they are following the same piece of music. My thanks go out to a great Council and to the BPS staff for all their hard work. As I mentioned over dinner, we are probably the only Learned Society to make “having fun” a critical part of our five-year strategy. If the welcome reception and annual dinner in Edinburgh are anything to go by, we are exceeding our KPIs on this element!
 
For those that did not attend the AGM, I would like to mention something that we announced on Monday. As many of our members will be aware, in recent years the Society has faced a challenge to maintain its visibility in industry. It’s a problem we’ve been trying to resolve for some time. At the AGM we announced a two-year strategic partnership with the European Laboratory Research & Innovation Group (ELRIG) UK that will see us explore collaborative projects in scientific meetings, communications, publications, education, and support for Early Career Researchers. ELRIG UK has tremendous reach into industry and a loyal following of delegates and exhibitors for its meetings. We hope that, through this deal, we will be able to engage with this group more effectively in the years ahead. It’s been a lot of work to get this over the line before the end of my Presidency, but I’m delighted that we have made it happen and grateful to my opposite number at ELRIG UK, Steve Rees, for helping us realise this vision.
 
At the dinner, one task I had was to sum up the contribution of Jono Brüün to the Society over his tenure as our Chief Executive Officer. He has become a close friend and we have achieved a great deal together. He has been so proud of the team that he has developed at Angel Gate and the profile he has developed for the BPS. I cannot do justice here to Jono’s achievements but suffice to say that the staff and members of the Society reflected my feeling by giving him a long, spontaneous standing-ovation at the dinner. Jono, we will miss you. I thank you for everything you have done for the Society, but like all families we will follow your progress in your new role with great interest.
 
You will be keen to learn who is replacing Jono. I am delighted to report that we have appointed Rachel Lambert-Forsyth to the position of Chief Executive Officer with effect from 16 March 2020.  This followed an extensive appointment process involving six of the BPS Trustees and a non-executive director from BPS Assessment Ltd.  I think that Rachel will be a superb ambassador for the Society and an open and supportive leader of the staff team. 
 
Rachel is currently Director of Membership and Professional Affairs at the Royal Society of Biology (RSB) and Company Secretary for Charles Darwin House. Rachel will bring a good depth of experience and a strong knowledge of the BPS.  She has a strong external network of contacts, cultivated through her volunteer non-executive roles as well as her secondment to government.
 
As noted at the AGM, I am also delighted to report that our Finance and Commercial Director Mike Poole has agreed to act as Interim CEO from 1 January 2020. I am confident that with Munir, Clive, Rachel and Mike at the helm, the Society is in good hands.
 
Perhaps in finishing, I can thank you all for the tremendous support you have given to me. I hope in some small measure I have been able the repay the confidence that you had in me when you elected me to be your President. I am extremely proud of what we have achieved together and I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year. 

 

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