Dear ISPN members,

The ISPN is a scientific society – and at the same time a unique community of colleagues and friends sharing important values, mindsets and goals.

As you know, we have fantastic scientific activities in the ISPN – e.g., our annual meetings, courses, teaching, education, and networking. We cooperate with neighbor societies and disciplines to share scientific knowledge and clinical skills. All this has been accomplished thanks to the tireless commitment of our former president, Graham Fieggen, and the Executive Board, the Chairs of the different ISPN committees, and the organizers and faculty members of courses etc.

These important activities must certainly go on, but I will not add to these here at this point. I want to put a focus on another aspect. If we broaden the range of the ISPN and its activities we must be aware of one of the possible risks. The inner core of our society may become diluted. Together, with all of you, I want to “turn the tables” towards this “inner core” that makes the ISPN so attractive, appealing and inviting.

What do I mean with this “inner core”? Over the years, I have often talked with other ISPN members about the question: why are you a member of the ISPN and why do you remain as a member? I never heard: “Because I pay a reduced congress fee when attending an annual meeting” or “Because I have free access to the favorite journal in pediatric neurosurgery” or “Because I get a newsletter every few months” or “Because the ISPN organizes joint ventures”. The answer is always: “Because I’m impressed by the spirit of this society and because I like the members”.

It is the attributes of the ISPN members, like collegiality, helpfulness, team spirit etc., that make the ISPN attractive. These aspects do not need to be re-discovered (I do not intend to reinvent the wheel), but from time to time they need to be brought to the surface. Sharing not only our knowledge, but also our spirit may motivate our young pediatric neurosurgeon colleagues to join the ISPN.

When we look at the last ISPN meetings it is apparent that only about half of the congress attendees, i. e. more than 100 or even 200 (a rough estimate) are not ISPN members. From the perspective of the meeting chairperson, this is a compliment, as the congress is interesting enough to attract a many non-ISPN-members. From the perspective of the ISPN, however, it must be noted that many of the attendees are interested in pediatric neurosurgery (otherwise they wouldn’t attend the meeting), but are not ISPN members.

How can we increase the inner cohesion within the ISPN, strengthen the close ties between the members and make our society more attractive? Of course, I have no ready-made recipe. But I want to make a somewhat unusual suggestion: a mental exercise for all of us over the next year.

In the ISPN, wealthy countries justifiably give – at least indirectly – financial support to countries with a less prosperous economic situation (I don’t like the term “developing countries” in this context. True human development is not primarily a matter of economics and finances). Seen in this manner, and to use a terminology from transplant surgery: the wealthy countries are on the “donor side” and the low-income countries are on the “acceptor side”. Now let’s flip the direction of thinking, “turn the tables” and ask: What can low-income countries give to wealthy countries that they have not? Ideas, motivation, enthusiasm, inner attitudes, ways of coping with problems etc.? If we find meaningful answers to these questions, it may turn out in the end that, at least in some instances, the low-income countries are then on the donor side and the wealthy countries are on the acceptor side. (By the way, this is also the rationale of Visiting Fellowships in a less prosperous country that are offered by the ISPN.)

I encourage and stimulate you (from all countries – the wealthy ones as well as the non-wealthy ones) to think about these questions. If you have answers, comments, ideas or suggestions: please send them to me. I will collect your thoughts and compile a summary that I can present at our next ISPN Annual Meeting in Birmingham. Until then – stay healthy and continue your valuable work and remain faithful to the ISPN!

Wolfgang Wagner 
ISPN President 2018-2019