Epigraph Vol. 10 Issue 1, Winter 2007-2008

President's Message: Highlights of the Year

Peter Wolf
Peter Wolf, President, ILAE

The ILAE can look back on 2007 with pleasure and pride. The year stands out by:

  • an explosion of our educational programs with no less than five summer schools, three of them new (Latin American Summer School on Epilepsy - LASSE, Migrating Course on Epilepsy for Central/Eastern Europe, and Baltic Sea Summer School on Epilepsy - BSSSE), and four parallel distance education modules, one of them (EEG) accomplished for the first time and with great success, and two others new (Clinical AED Pharmacotherapy and Neuroimaging in Epilepsy);
  • the establishment of North-South cooperation in the Americas, initiated by the two regional Commissions, with exchange programs and a development plan for the Caribbean in general and the island of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti) in particular;
  • another successful International Epilepsy Congress which took place in Singapore;
  • the launch of a new prize, the Morris-Coole Prize for the best publication of one year in Epilepsia, given in Singapore together with the traditional Michael Prize, with prize lectures, and with announcement of the shortlist of candidate papers proposed by the Journal's Associate Editors; and
  • a highly rewarding Strategic Planning Meeting with the Chairs of all our Commissions in Brussels. The meeting started with every Chairperson giving a report on the Commission’s work, and it was truly impressive to see the whole range of activities which are conducted by our organization.

The above is only a selection of highlights, and there are many other and similar initiatives. They provide exciting examples of the rich, varied and vivacious activities on all levels and in all sorts of networks that today are perhaps the most distinctive feature of our organization. We can be proud of that. I would especially point out that, with Europe and North America as traditional strongholds of epileptology and with Asia/Oceania having gained a lot of momentum in the new millennium, Latin America has this year joined the ranks of excellence. Thus, the 1st LASSE in São Paolo was from my perspective the “Event of the Year”, a turning point for the development of epilepsy in that region and giving the young generation there enormous encouragement to work in our field, for everybody’s benefit. 

The global organization and the regions
The ILAE was founded, in 1909, primarily as an international society which soon established national committees. Today, the national organizations which constitute its membership are all legally independent entities incorporated in their respective countries. Their individual memberships stretch from a handful to over 2,000, and, also, their resources and activities vary widely. Some are more aware than others that they are part of a global organization. Since the establishment of an intermediate organizational level between Executive Committee (EC) and Chapters — the regional Commissions — regional identities have developed, as intended and expected. The challenge we are faced with is to ensure an optimal balance between EC, Regions and Chapters, a balance which works best for all who like to be involved in our manifold activities. One of the issues is the adequate participation of all regions in our global agenda and in the EC. This balance is not easy to find. It is presently under intense discussion by the EC and was also part of our dialogue with the Regional Commission Chairs last October. We do not plan to develop the ILAE into a federation of national or regional organizations. We need dynamism, global strategies and global innovative action more than ever and a strong international leadership to ensure these. But we also believe that the regions can give us and have given us highly valuable input on the background of their local knowledge and experiences, and we want to give more room for the participation of the regions in our global agenda.

The coming elections
In the coming year, the procedures to elect the next Executive Committee will start under the direction of an Election Committee chaired by the Immediate Past President, Giuliano Avanzini. The first step is the election of the new President from a slate of candidates who must meet the requirement to have served at least one term of office on the Executive Committee. This is to make sure that they have experience with our organization. Although the willingness of some persons to serve the League in this capacity has already become apparent, the election campaign has not begun, and it is not yet known how many of the possible candidates will actually stand for election and who. The candidacies will be announced early in 2008. In a democratic association, all candidates must have a fair and equal chance at elections. They will be given an opportunity to publicly present themselves and convince our membership that they merit election to our highest office. Please take a good look at the visions and plans of all candidates, the record of their achievements and the commitment they have demonstrated, to elect the person who is most likely to ensure another period of dynamic development of our organization.

In the second part of the election, all Chapters will be invited to nominate candidates for the other offices, and those who receive the most nominations will then be put to a vote. We are fortunate that around the world there are now many worthy and dedicated people — men and women — who are willing to serve on the Executive Committee. The ILAE, in spite of its dynamism and ability for renewal and progress, is a slightly atavistic organization in one respect: all its officers are, and have been for decades, only men. Therefore, the next President, whoever it will be, will again be a man. I feel strongly that the time has come for a change, and very much hope that the Chapters will nominate some of the excellent women who are active in our Chapters and Commissions to be strong candidates with a good chance to be elected.

With Season’s Greetings and my very best wishes for the New Year I am

Yours truly,

Peter Wolf
ILAE President