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Putting the "I" into International

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John Dark, MB FRCS
ISHLT Links Newsletter Senior Editor
Freeman Hospital
Newcastle Upon Tyne, UNITED KINGDOM

Back in the spring of 2011, at the San Diego Annual meeting, our Society introduced the concept of the Travelling Scholarship. We are an International society, with a wonderful meeting every year, but we wanted to create more opportunities for our members to meet and learn. In particular, we wanted to give the opportunity for any member of our transplant teams to go and see how things were done elsewhere, to learn and maybe also to teach. This opportunity would be of equal value to surgeons, nurses, pharmacists and basic scientists, to list but a few.

Not only did the ISHLT establish the scheme, but the Board of Directors voted $60,000 per year to provide up to $6000 for each applicant. Priority would be for those going to different continents, across oceans. They had to be supported by, and travel to, ISHLT members, but there were precious few other rules.

For the past 2 years, the application closing dates have been on August 1st and December 1st. To date, 22 Scholarships have been awarded, and the Society has spent a little over $108,000. What have we had for our money?

The geographical spread has been gratifyingly wide. We did not forbid cross border visits in North America, but only 3 trips were of this nature; all the rest crossed oceans.

We can summarise the journeys made in a simple form:



USA: 6

USA: 9

Canada: 4

Canada: 3

Europe: 8

Europe: 6

Australia: 2

Australia: 4

South America: 2


We might have expected many of the applications to come to the USA, and whilst that is the commonest, it's gratifying to see the variety. Australia, for some incomprehensible reason, is disproportionately popular!

Who travelled? Again, we might have expected a preponderance of MD's, and they were the biggest group, 13 out of the 22. But we were delighted to see 4 nurses, a pharmacist and no fewer than 4 basic scientists. They spent periods varying from 2 weeks to 4 months living in a different city, seeing different programmes, learning techniques, making new friends.

Scientists learned new lab skills, surgeons saw different approaches to organ donation. They went from places as diverse as Sao Paulo, Hamburg and Newcastle to visit Edmonton, Columbia and Melbourne.

Presentations were made at Grand Rounds, papers written, new collaborations hatched. Some sections in a particular report, from Manon Huibers, who travelled from Utrecht in the Netherlands to spend 4 months in George Tellides lab at Yale University, describe very well what all this is about:

"What we did achieve in this period is a great basis for collaboration in the future. Enthusiasm and experience cannot be transferred by phone or email, we really needed personal contact. In the last few months we gained very promising results which will need future experiments. We will definitely continue this collaboration and finish this project."

In her report entitled, Learning from the Best (read full report), she went on to say:

"Besides, every lab has its strengths; one might be better at one technique, while another might be better at another technique. We cannot all be 'the best' at everything without each others help. Combining our strength and collaborating will bring us further in research and closer to understanding CAV and maybe finding a cure."

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Tellides-lab members, from left to right: Yang Jiao (Jack), Lingfeng Qin,
Ioanna Tellides, Jing Zhou, George Tellides, and Manon Huibers.

This opportunity is there for everyone in the ISHLT. Our next closing date for applications is a month away, December 1st. So make some contacts, drum up support from your institute and the other across the world, go to the website to apply (www.ishlt.org/awards/awardIntlTravelScholar.asp) and you might be packing your bags!

Disclosure Statement: the author has no conflicts of interest to disclose.

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