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The EBSQ Surgical Oncology Examination – A Personal Experience 20/04/2017

Continuing professional education is essential as medical knowledge in the field of surgical oncology incessantly progresses. However, it isn’t always easy to keep up with the latest trends, and certifications like the EBSQ (European Board of Surgery Qualification) examinations can support healthcare professionals in their professional life.

The two EBSQ professional examinations in Surgical Oncology and in Breast Cancer Surgery aim to certify the level of knowledge, skills, and capabilities necessary for the optimal treatment of cancer patients. Based on the ESSO Core Curriculum, they are co-organised by ESSO and the European Board of Surgery of the Union of European Medical Specialists (UEMS).

Two successful German candidates in past EBSQ examinations recently reported about their experience during the ESSO Session at the German Society of Surgery Congress (21-24 February 2017, Munich, Germany – see article in this newsletter). Dr. Hans-Günter Becker from Caritas Klinikum Saarbrücken (Germany) is sharing with us his personal story, which led him to take the exam in surgical oncology and could be helpful to inspire many other surgeons.

Dr. Becker started his career as a General Surgeon in 1987 and, at that time, “I was professionally brought up with the idea that the knowledge and the quality of work in the operating room and in the ward were important. Titles and accreditations or certificates were of less value”. In 2008 however, when he was already a senior physician and appreciated member of his academic teaching hospital’s board, his professional environment changed. The hierarchic structure of his department changed from “top-down” to a “horizontal structure” with different specializations. Moreover, endocrine surgery was replaced by advanced liver surgery, treatment of peritoneal carcinomatosis and transplant surgery (kidney and pancreas).  The accreditation as “Visceral Surgeon” was introduced and replaced general surgery.  Following his interest in oncological surgery, he started to implement the treatment of peritoneal carcinomatosis with CRS and HIPEC in his hospital.

He connected with the CAOV “Organgruppe Peritoneum” (the German surgical oncology working group in the management of peritoneal cancers), where he was reminded that his accreditation despite his experience and knowledge was not sufficient to be fit for the future, and so he became a “Visceral” and later a “Special Visceral Surgeon”. 

Another transformation happened when the Austrian guideline of peritonectomy and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) was published, and the mention of the role of a “Surgical Oncologist” caught his attention. He made some research in this field and developed a few key connections at the national and international level, including presentations of relevant research activities (e.g. at ESSO, ECCO and PSOGI meetings).

The last change took place when the Chairman of his institution left and, again, a strict top-down hierarchic structure came back in. As things turned worse, he decided to complete his qualifications and became a “Surgical Oncologist” by passing the EBSQ examination in surgical oncology during the 2013 European Cancer Congress (ECCO) in Amsterdam. Conducted under the supervision of an Examination Board chaired by Ms. Lynda Wyld (UK), Head of the ESSO Education & Training Committee and of the UEMS Division of Surgical Oncology, the exam consists in a written multiple choice questionnaire and in an oral exam, based on two case discussions and a review of a scientific paper.

“To pass this exam, you need to update your knowledge about the theory of cancer from different perspectives (biochemical, molecular, genetic, etc.)” says Dr. Becker. While adding that this experience made his perspective evolve from ‘oncological surgery’ to ‘surgical oncology’ – “a real challenge, as you have to think like a surgeon and a medical oncologist at the same time” – he admits that this accreditation allows surgeons to become “real gatekeepers in modern multimodal therapy”, a knowledge which in his case became a “door opener” towards a new position, and allowed him to better understand the chances and risks of modern therapies in the context of surgical oncology.

We would like to announce the dates and to remind you the deadlines to apply for the next EBSQ exam sessions:

  • The Breast Cancer Surgery EBSQ exam will take place on 23rd June 2017 (written exam) in 3 different European places (Athens, Budapest and London) and 1st October 2017 (viva exam) in Naples. The application deadline is April 30th, 2017
  • The Surgical Oncology EBSQ exam will take place on 6th and 7th October 2017 in Brussels. The application deadline is May 15th, 2017.

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