Luis Garcia-Larrea shares his vision as European Pain Federation President:
I want to thank you once again for electing me as the next President of the European Pain Federation EFIC. As a pain researcher and clinician, Director of an EFIC Pain School, and of course as the preceding Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of Pain, serving our patients and the pain community has always been central to my vocation. I have spent the last two years observing activities within EFIC, how decisions are made, how much work goes on behind the scenes (a lot!), and how much professionalism is brought to the task by our community of volunteers. I have been impressed by what I have seen, and I hope to contribute towards the continuation of this work through my term and beyond.
After reflecting on my ideas over the past two years, and having learnt a lot as President-Elect, I now present to you my key priorities as President over the next three years:
- Connecting researchers and clinicians
This will be a horizontal priority across my Presidency, hopefully feeding into multiple projects and activities of EFIC. It is a strong belief of mine that both the research world and the clinical world would benefit from closer interaction and collaboration. Both communities have their advantages and disadvantages in how they see the world. Researchers have good solutions and a methodological rigour that often lack to clinicians, but which sometimes are applied to questions of limited relevance in the clinics. Clinicians have important and useful questions and are in the first line to understand the complexity of human beings, much beyond experimental models, but very often lack the methodological proficiency to extract relevant conclusions from their observations. The gap that exists between the two slows down the progress of both, in terms of scientific breakthroughs and in terms of optimal patient care.
I will be developing specific plans in the first months of my Presidency, but initial ideas that come to mind include:
- Creating ‘binomial’ grants, bringing together basic research and clinical projects in a cohesive way
- Lobbying for clinical services to integrate junior researchers within their teams to bring a cutting-edge research perspective to existing clinical care.
- Building the voice of younger researchers into EFIC’s work, by potentiating mixed research / clinic approaches and discussions in our courses, webinars, pain summits and the EFIC congress.
- Working towards official recognition of EFIC’S examinations and enhancing their status and visibility across Europe
After observing my first Examination for the European Diploma in Pain Medicine (EDPM) in July this year, it was clear to me that EFIC’s work in this area is done with exceptional professionalism, setting high standards for Europe. Unfortunately, that work currently only benefits a small number of candidates each year and does not necessarily translate into sizeable benefits for their career in their countries. I would like to see the examinations of EFIC be recognised as true European standards by national authorities and other professional bodies going forward. I would also like to see measures to expand the reach of EFIC’s examinations, which could partly be achieved through national recognition, but also through expansion in terms of language. Such steps may require a new approach to exam organisation for EFIC, putting the responsibility in the hands of delegated organisational entities. However, I think this bold step may be transformative.
- Further strengthen EFIC’s role in collaborative research
A great achievement over the past two years has been EFIC’s gradual expansion into collaborative research. After a first experiment with the IMI-PainCare project, EFIC now has a very role it can play within research project, and we are now part of many, from funding schemes such as ERA-NET-Neuron, IMI2, EU4Health and Erasmus+. This can go further, though it must do sustainably, with a clear eye on what sort of project is in keeping with EFIC’s mission. The ERA-NET-Neuron funding was a coup, in that it helps develop our own European Pain Research Strategy. I would like to see this project setting a framework for new activities in the field of research, as well as influencing national activities. The European Pain Research Strategy has also been significant in its building in of other scientific societies and their points of view. Hopefully we can maintain and expand this sense of collaboration via follow-on collaborative actions, especially with ‘cousin’ medical and scientific societies involved in all aspects of pain research and management.
Collaboration should also imply patients. Patients are experts in their own way; empowering them with inclusion in each of our workforces is something my predecessors started, that came out clearly in our recent European survey on pain priorities, and that should be pursued and expanded. I intend to continue supporting the two previous presidential campaigns: Bart Morlions’ ‘On the Move’ and Brona Fullens’ ‘Plain Talking’, which in many ways paved the road for this venture.
- Building stronger connections in East and South-East Europe
The war in Ukraine evoked a renewed sense of European solidarity which hopefully we can maintain during peacetime as well as during times of conflict. While Ukraine’s problems run much deeper than elsewhere currently, the overall picture in many countries in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe should cause us to consider what we can do to promote development. Access to basic healthcare services and treatments, the provision of pain education and relevant technologies for pain relief and many other structural problems hold back the improvement of pain care. I would like to work in a deep and constructive way with our partner chapters in these areas of Europe to find ways forward.
As you can infer from my above words, my personal motto in this new term will be: ‘Joining forces. Breaking barriers.’ I look forward to working with the Executive Board, Council, and volunteers to build on the legacy that has been left to me.
Luis Garcia Larrea
President Elect, European Pain Federation EFIC®