29th April 2021

As Professor Philip Howard prepares to pass the torch to our new President, Dr David Jenkins, he looks back at the highs and lows of the last three years… And the challenges that BSAC, and the wider healthcare community, face ahead.

If I had to sum up my presidency in a single word, it would be: inclusivity. By offering free membership to all, we’ve opened BSAC up to the world. As well as enabling our network to grow exponentially (we’re now three times bigger than we were three years ago!), the removal of the financial hurdle ensures that our colleagues in low- and middle-income countries are able to join us, helping us turn our focus towards those parts of the world that are likely to carry the greatest burden of infectious disease.

This idea of inclusivity extends to the diverse makeup of both our council and our membership, which includes infectious disease physicians, microbiologists, pharmacists, researchers, and nurses, to name but a few. Indeed, my own appointment as the first pharmacist to become BSAC President is an enormous source of pride, and points to the increasing diversification of both the Society’s interests and those it represents.

With regards to highs, there are too many to provide an exhaustive list, but if I had to pick one, it would surely be the endorsement of OPAT (outpatient parenteral antimicrobial therapy) in the Department of Health and Social Care’s recent Transforming NHS Pharmacy Aseptic Services in England review, which effectively repositions OPAT services from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’ (where the clinical need exists). This represents the culmination of a decade of work by BSAC, and will undoubtedly help transform the patient experience in the UK, as well as reducing pressure on the NHS by reducing unnecessary hospital admissions.

Other triumphs include the development of the UK Antimicrobial Registry, the updating of the BSAC Grants Programme, the continued growth of our e-learning programmes (which have engaged learners in 224 countries), as well the launch of Stop Superbugs, which replaces Antibiotic Action as our public facing global health initiative, and is already busy supporting projects in Tanzania and India.

Of course, my tenure has not been without its challenges.

There was the sad loss of Kate Gould, BSAC General Secretary and Senior Editor on the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, as well as the retirement of the BSAC AMR Surveillance programme (although it leaves a powerful legacy that will continue to it be added to.) And of course, the last year has taken place to the backdrop of the worst pandemic in living memory.

Yet here again, there are reasons to be both proud and hopeful. Proud that BSAC was able to play our part with the quick development of a COVID Resource Hub and the adaptation of our grants programme to support research into the impact of COVID-19 on AMR, not to mention our quick shift to online events, which have helped to ensure not just continuity, but growth, as the lack of travel removes yet another barrier to entry for overseas delegates. And optimistic, that as the global consciousness shifts to recognise the destructive power of one unchecked infectious disease, there may too be a wider recognition of the existential threat that AMR represents, finally leading to the joined-up global leadership, vision, and resources needed to ensure a safer future for us all.

Finally, it would be remiss of me to sign off without mentioning that this year represents BSAC’s 50th anniversary – five decades of saving lives by fighting infection. It has been a glorious fifty years, and while we’re justly proud of our achievements, we remain a fervently forward-looking society. As I hand over to our new President, David Jenkins, I know that, with the help of our fabulous CEO and the secretariat at BSAC, we are in safe hands, ready to face up to the challenges and opportunities that the next fifty years will undoubtedly bring.

GP? Pharmacist? Researcher? Social Scientist? Whatever field you work in, if you’re committed to fighting infection then we want you to join us as a BSAC Member.
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