Ireland is widely regarded as having responded well to the Covid-19 pandemic due to exemplary leadership in many sectors. Leaders in a range of areas, including healthcare, government, business, education and society, adapted speedily to a rapidly changing environment and came together to find solutions to seemingly intractable problems.
UCD Smurfit School and the Royal College of Physicians Ireland are hosting a webinar on September 19th which will bring together a number of these leaders to examine key learnings from the response to the initial wave of Covid-19 in Ireland from healthcare delivery and organisational points of view. They will also explore the societal and economic consequences of the pandemic both in Ireland and abroad.
The event is the brainchild of the UCD Leadership in Healthcare Network which was established earlier this year to bring together people with an interest in healthcare and leadership to share knowledge, experience and expertise.
The network was originally proposed by two graduates of the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School Executive MBA programme. "Dr Knut Moe, who is a practising GP, and Sinead Ryan, a pharmacist, recognised the potential of such a network of UCD Smurfit School graduates from across the healthcare sector and approached me about setting it up," explains Prof Gerardine Doyle, director of the Smurfit School and associate dean of the UCD College of Business.
“I was very receptive to the idea,” she continues. “My own background is in pharmacology. When ideas come from alumni, they tend to have a life and energy of their own. It’s great when initiatives like this come from the bottom up and not from the top down.”
The original intention was to hold three or four events each year. "The plan was to hold a number of seminars and discussion panels on excellence in healthcare leadership but then the pandemic struck," says Doyle. "The 'Leadership during a Pandemic: Charting a Course for Healthcare, Society and the Economy' webinar will be our inaugural event. We are hosting it in partnership with Roche, a global pioneer in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics focused on advancing science to improve people's lives.
“It will provide an opportunity to reflect on leadership during this extraordinary time of crisis. But we don’t want it to be just a discussion. We want to inform public policy and make a difference for the future. We want to look at what might have been done differently and learn for the future.”
The impressive line-up of speakers and contributors for the event includes acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn, HSE chief clinical officer Colm Henry, Roche Diagnostics Ireland director Finbarr Kenny, Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy, KPMG partner Emer McGrath, PwC managing partner Fergal O'Rourke and IDA chief executive Martin Shanahan.
The opening session will deal with the rapid response required by the onset of the pandemic.
"One of the things I think about is just how extraordinary the crisis has been. Never in our wildest imagination did we think something could impact so much on our everyday lives. We now have to be able to think the unthinkable. It's like fixing the wing while the plane is in flight. Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte described it as having 50 per cent of the information while having to make 100 per cent of the decisions."
Technology and telemedicine
The second session will look at the impact on patient care and frontline carers. "We have seen a significant change in care for cystic fibrosis patients with an increase in the embrace of technology and the use of telemedicine, for example," she says. "We will also hear from Prof Mark Lawler from Queen's University Belfast who has done invaluable research on the impact of Covid-19 on cancer care in hospitals throughout the UK.
“This is very important as late diagnosis of cancer leads to a higher severity of illness requiring more aggressive treatment with significant numbers of excess deaths. This is a stark fallout from the pandemic.”
The third session features panel discussions on the societal and economic impacts of Covid-19. “We can do well by health, by society and the economy. It will be very interesting to see what those panels bring out.
"We are also going to hear from Michael Dowling, who is chief executive of Northwell Health, a member of the UCD Smurfit School North American Advisory Board. He will speak about the impact of the pandemic on New York and how they improved the situation there."
The webinar will wrap up with a synthesis of the various contributions and discussions.
"Dr Larry O'Connell of the National Economic and Social Council will tease that out for us," says Doyle. "Our next two seminars are already being planned and will deal with digital healthcare and related areas. We look forward to continuing to promote excellence in healthcare leadership through collaboration, innovation and shared learning and experience."
Register for the conference at smurfitschool.ie/events