Annual Report 2013

Dear SASES member

It is 4 weeks before the ASSA/SASES congress in East London, and I really hope we will see many of our members there, also at the AGM on Saturday morning 16 March.

Our last congress 6 months ago in Durban was a big success.  The first SASES visitor from the Indian subcontinent, Prof Pradeep Chowbey, proved to be an excellent speaker with vast experience.  He and his wife also immersed themselves in the congress and society, and we have opened up important links with his Unit in Delhi.

We have exciting international visitors for East London.  Prof Tim Rockall is the Head of the MATTU (Minimal Access Surgery Training Unit) in Guildford, and also President of the ALSGBI (the British equivalent of SASES).  He stepped into the MATTU shoes of Prof Michael Bailey, a long-time friend of our society and very entertaining visitor to our congress at Champagne Sports Resort.  Tim is a colorectal surgeon and expert on laparoscopic training, and will share these insights with us.  He will also be presenting a one-day laparoscopic colorectal workshop at the Red Cross Training Unit after the congress, on Monday 18 March.  Booking for this is now open, and places are limited.  Go to for more info.

Dr Ross Carter is the current President of the Pancreatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and spent a year as fellow in Groote Schuur hospital.  He is a pioneer in the minimally invasive treatment of pancreatic disease and an excellent and entertaining speaker.  Both he and Tim will also present breakfast sessions, for which bookings are now open at  See their biographies at

Last year was also an election year, and we bid goodbye to a long-standing exco member, Heine van der Walt.  Heine was one of the founders of SASES, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for his work through the years.  Please see his thoughts on “retiring” from the exco at

However, we have not let him off that lightly, and he has been invited as our society’s national visitor for the East London congress, with a full list of talks, videos and breakfast sessions.

We were fortunately able to cajole Dick Brombacher into staying on for another term as Honorary Secretary, as it has indeed become unthinkable to run the society without his able and stabilizing influence.

Laparoscopic appendicectomy remains a major headache for our members, and therefore we will have a debate about it at our congress, including members of the medical aid industry.  Hopefully we can draw up a SASES position statement about it afterwards, allowing members to negotiate more effectively.

New exco members are Professor Zach Koto, head of Surgery at Medunsa and a committed “scopehead” and Dr Christine Jann-Kruger, fellow at Wits and very active in laparoscopic training.  Members will get to know them better at our training initiatives.

We identified training as our main thrust for the next two years, and your society has been pursuing this objective very actively:

1. The SASES training courses have really taken off in the last year.  We are focusing on two skills courses: the lap chole or intermediate course and the suturing and GI course for more advanced skills.  The latter is a two-day course, and it has been gratifying to see how delegates leave the course with the skills necessary for advanced laparoscopic work.  Alp Numanoglu, with the training unit at Red Cross (, has been tireless in supporting and developing this initiative.  Eugene Panieri and Bob Baigrie has been a great help in this endeavour. More than 1000 delegates went through the unit last year, and this year it is set to be even more.

2. Your society have engaged with the College of Surgery to make the training courses a prerequisite for the College exams.  At the upcoming congress a whole session is devoted to bile duct injury, an epidemic that does not seem to abate in South Africa.  I sincerely believe that this can be improved with a formalized training programme, and our courses aim to be a catalyst for this.

3 . We were very excited with our first webcast from the Surgical Skills Unit in November.  As far as I know, this was a first for South African laparoscopic surgery and there was also international interest.  Eugene Panieri presented “laparoscopic splenectomy”, and I was impressed with the quality and ease of use of the webcast system.  This is set to become a regular training feature, so please diarize 27 February at 6pm (That’s in a week’s time) to watch Rob Cywes in Jacksonville, Florida talk about “laparoscopic foregut and bariatric surgery” from the comfort of your study – or living room or bedroom, for that matter!

4. We also continue with master classes, like the colorectal course planned after our congress.  Masee Naidoo, your vice-president, together with Bob Baigrie and Adam Boutall,  have been working hard to organize the course and sponsorship.  It will be exciting, with the innovation of cadaver torso surgery used for the first time on our courses.  Book on the website.

5. Our two travelling fellowships remain an important way to increase the pool of expertise in the country.  Adam Boutall spent a very productive 3 months in Amsterdam, coming back brimming with enthusiasm.  Emile Coetzee, our 2012 recipient of the Covidien-SASES grant, will shortly follow him to Amsterdam, while Heather Bougard will visit Prof Markus Walz in Germany as the winner of the Storz-SASES fellowship.  These are very prestigious and well-funded scholarships, each to the value of R150 000.  I once again want to thank our generous industry sponsors for this.  My great thanks also to our Vice-President, Masee Naidoo, who runs the fellowship programme.

Applications for the 2013 awards are now open, go to to register.

6. We have worked very closely with SASREG, the society for gynaecological laparoscopy, to draw up curricula and assist with courses in advanced laparoscopic surgery and suturing at the Red Cross Unit.  I trust this “cross-pollination” will be to the advantage of both our groups.

7. Reniel de Beer and Martin Brand has built up a wonderful article library on our website, free to members and a boon to making informed decisions.  See

8. Our informal questionnaire at the AGM last year confirmed that many members require proctoring for specific procedures, and very gratifyingly also that many senior members are prepared to give of their time as proctors.  Setting up such proctoring will be a natural progression after the courses; it will however need a lot of administrative effort, as well as ways to remunerate the proctors.  At the moment, this is still just a dream.

Securing company sponsorship for congresses, courses and society activities is becoming increasingly difficult.  Our Society is in good financial stead due to the sterling work of the previous treasurer, Etienne Swanepoel.  He was a veteran and hard-working exco member, always prepared to go the extra mile for the society.  Reniel de Beer has very capably taken over the position, and the finances are in good hands.  However, we will have to find innovative ways to secure sponsorship for the many society activities.  I personally feel that the device companies have a very small pool of surgeons that allow them a very large turnover, and they should commit fully to the society and its initiatives.

Keeping with financials, we have strongly supported the Surgicom and Healthman representations regarding the HPCSA ethical tariff and the pricing commission, also sending a SASES endorsement to the HPCSA.  Our thanks to Stephen Grobler, Surgicom Director and one of our exco members, who put in many hours of work with this document.  A copy of this important documentation will be available on the website shortly.

Members would have noticed our new administrative address in the FoSAS head office.  Despite the few unavoidable teething problems, the central secretariat is now up and running, and I must give thanks to the very able Sue Parkes, who manages our membership on a day to day basis.

I look forward to seeing many of you in East London.

Kind Regards

Danie Folscher