Update from the Senior Fellows’ Club: ‘SFC online’

Dr Andrew Tannahill, Honorary Secretary of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow Senior Fellows’ Club (SFC), gives an update on recent and ongoing SFC activities.

Update from the Senior Fellows’ Club: ‘SFC online’

Dick Mindham (speaker) and Alistair Dorward (Chair) at an ‘SFC online’ webinar

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Dr Andrew Tannahill, Honorary Secretary of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow Senior Fellows’ Club (SFC), gives an update on recent and ongoing SFC activities.

The SFC is open to Fellows and Members of the College, across its disciplines, who have retired from substantive practice. Retired Fellows/Members of the other UK Physician and Surgeon Colleges are also welcome to join.

In normal circumstances, the SFC meets in the College on seven afternoons each session, monthly from October to April. The meetings are centred on a programme of lecture presentations by SFC members on a great variety of topics, and four are preceded by drinks in the Lower Library and lunch in the College Hall.

With COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in place and the SFC facing the prospect of prolonged inactivity for the first time in its 44-year history, there came a welcome boost in the form of proactive encouragement from the College President, Professor Jackie Taylor, to make use of the College’s webinar facilities and expertise. A further boost followed quickly as College staff, despite facing challenges in adapting to working from home and responding to burgeoning demands for digital learning, enthusiastically embraced the idea and worked wholeheartedly towards making it reality.

After discussions and internal ‘dry-runs’ to identify and address practical issues, a test SFC webinar event was held on 1 July to explore the possibility of delivering some or all of the Club’s 2020-21 programme as ‘SFC online’. Dr Alistair Dorward stepped up to the plate with a lecture on asbestos entitled The Indestructible Fibre – from ancient Egypt and Charlemagne to the present day. At that event, Mr David Smith announced that he was retiring after five years as SFC Chair, and handing over to Alistair. 

David served the Club wonderfully well with his warm and skilful conducting of lectures and lunches, not to mention his distinctive jokes. We’re fortunate to have in his place someone who’s no stranger convening, chairing and speaking at events, having served as, among other things, Deacon Convener of the Trades House of Glasgow, President of the Scottish Society of Physicians, and President of the Royal Medico-Chirurgical Society of Glasgow.

The July test event went very well, with 49 audience members on the day and positive feedback received in the post-event evaluation. In addition, all of the speakers for the 2020-21 session agreed to deliver their talks through webinars, even if they had no previous experience presenting remotely. SFC online was born.

At the time of writing, we’re now successfully three webinars through the seven-lecture programme, with attendances ranging from around 50 to over 60, overall positive evaluation findings as regards the webinar experience, and numerous expressions of appreciation of the talks and the existence of the events. College staff have proved to be highly committed and skilled in enabling speakers to present with confidence and the webinar events to run as smoothly as possible.

Of course, webinars can’t substitute fully for the normal SFC programme, of which face-to-face fellowship and the sociable lunches are such important parts, but it’s gratifyingly clear that they have an important part to play in maintaining engagement with and between retired Fellows/Members and providing enjoyable escape from the worries of the present time. Participation is free. 

Everyone on the SFC Contacts List is contacted in advance of the webinars and given the opportunity to register for them. Fellows/Members of the College who have retired, or will be retiring between now and April 2021, can have their details added to the SFC Contacts List by emailing seniorfellowsclub@rcpsg.ac.uk or calling 0141 221 6072 and selecting the option for the Membership Department. Information on the 2020-21 Programme can be obtained in the same way.

I’ve been hugely impressed by the creativity and resilience of the College in rapidly and effectively adopting new ways of working in the face of COVID-19, and I’m extremely grateful to Digital Learning and Membership Support colleagues for making SFC online possible. 

Particular thanks are due to the College’s Jonna Fraser, Ryan Norrie, Julia McKenzie, Moira McLaughlin, Karin Bredfelt and Ewan Olivarius – and of course to the President for taking the trouble to set the ball rolling.

A warm welcome, even if only ‘virtual’ at present, awaits new and returning SFC participants.

Dr Andrew Tannahill

Honorary Secretary

RCPSG Senior Fellows’ Club

This article was written by Dr Andrew Tannahill.

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