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President’s Message: A fond farewell

Published: 22 Nov 2021
Category: President's message
By Munir Pirmohamed

As we near the end of 2021, my time as the Society’s President also comes to a close. In my final blog, I will reflect on the experience of leading the Society over the last two years, including the challenges we have all faced.
When I began my term in January 2020, I was not expecting to be able to add ‘first Society President to serve during a global pandemic’ to my résumé. Just three months after I took up my post, the UK entered its first national lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Working closely with our new CEO, Rachel Lambert-Forsyth, we closed the Society’s offices at the Schild Plot, asking all staff to work from home, and pivoted all Society day-to-day activities, including Committee and Council meetings, to online formats. This has worked very well, and although it is important to meet in person sometimes, it also highlights that in the future, we should be able to conduct many of our business meetings online. This is important at a time when the Society is also developing plans to reduce its carbon footprint.
Nearly two years later, we have of course made great strides in understanding COVID-19 and its prevention and treatment. Members of our community have certainly played important roles in the quick and effective response to the pandemic. We also saw dramatic changes in our work patterns, with our usual research being set aside to focus on the pandemic. As we come out of the pandemic, and the pandemic will end, we need to remember that there are hundreds of other diseases that need the expertise of our community. Scientific research has never had such a high public profile, and we need to play our part in supporting young people who are interested in careers in science.
As a Society, we aimed to keep you connected and informed by launching the BPS Community and adapting our meetings and events. We created the BPS Live webinar series and pivoted our flagship Pharmacology meetings to exceptional online events with plenty of networking opportunities in 2020 and 2021. We also developed policy positions around the role of pharmacology and clinical pharmacology in developing safe and effective therapeutics for COVID-19, coordinated member media responses, and expedited the review of COVID-19 related research in our journals.
We also achieved a great deal beyond COVID-19 work, including campaigning for government investment in clinical pharmacology, continuing to shape the 2023 World Congress of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology, working closely with partners – including our strategic alliance with the European Laboratory Research and Innovation Group UK - and growing and developing our three scientific journals.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, I am pleased that the Society is in a stable and adaptable position to be able to continue to support you, our members, in your essential work. We have listened and learnt a great deal about the concerns and needs of our community over the course of the last few years and this has informed our thinking for our new three-year strategy, due to launch in January 2022.
I am looking forward to seeing many of you very soon, at my first (and last!) in-person Society meetings as President. Our Annual General Meeting, where we will update on and discuss all aspects of Society business, is taking place at the British Library in London on Tuesday 30 November 2021. The following day, Wednesday 1 December, we will be at the Royal College of Physicians for the Society’s 90th Anniversary Celebration event. You can still register to join in-person or online. This event features two symposia honouring the scientific and societal contributions of Professor Sir Colin Dollery and Professor Sir Alasdair Breckenridge. The event will also encompass our annual President’s lecture, this year given by Professor Robert Langer of MIT, and the Gaddum lecture by Professor Carlo Patrono. I hope to catch up with many of you during those two days.
Thank you to all Society members for your support and the work you have undertaken over the course of the pandemic. I also want to thank the fantastic Council and Committees for your support and challenge, which has helped to strengthen the Society over the last few years. Finally, I want to also thank the fantastic and hardworking Society staff, who are pivotal in making sure the Society is an organisation that is fit-for-purpose in the 21st century. It has been an enormous privilege and honour to have served as the Society’s President for the last two years. I will of course remain heavily invested in the mission of the Society and I have no doubt it will continue to thrive under the stewardship of Professor Clive Page, who takes up the President position from 1 January 2022.

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