Too Pale, male, and stale?

A blog by by Ganesh Suntharalingam, SOA organiser


The title quote does not come, in this case, from the row over Jeremy Corbyn’s senior Shadow Cabinet appointments, although it did also crop up there.

In fact, it’s a phrase I heard a couple of months ago from one of our own new speakers, when I asked her for her perceptions of State of the Art.  Was she right?  Well, your survey responses earlier this year also told us that we needed to change, so we have listened.  The question is, have we succeeded?

The “pale” part is a bit tricky to comment on without wading into ethnic profiling, though the faculty is certainly diverse this year.  Gender is easier to quantify.  With 22 female speakers and chairs, making up 27% of the total body, we may still have a long way to go, but the contributions are strong and varied:  to list only a few, Charlotte Summers on mechanisms of ARDS, Judith Nelson from Memorial Sloan-Kettering on end of life decision-making where she is joined by Zoe Fritz, and on ‘humanising the ICU’ with Dorothy Wade; Anna Batchelor chairing the social media and critical care sessions and Julia Wendon on bleeding in liver disease; while Claudia Dos Santos from Toronto appears in the opening sepsis plenary as well as the ‘science of muscle wasting’ and ‘chronic critical illness’ sessions.

Ella Segaran has organised and is chairing all three of the rehab and recovery-themed sessions, with the early mobilisation session including Fiona Moffat from Nottingham and Carole Hodgson of ANZICS, who is also performing a breakfast annual review on mechanical ventilation.   Sarah Cunningham-Burley will discuss the ethics of big data in critical care, while Carole Boulanger and Sarah Quinton will give insights into outreach and setting up critical care practitioner teams, and we are lucky to have Nuala Lucas, Audrey Quinn, Fionnula McAuliffe, and Bronnach Pemberton speaking on maternity critical care, via the good offices of the OAA.

Meanwhile, we’ve been having some fun with the formats, so Niamh Feely will have what I suspect will be a lively debate on in-situ SIM vs. SIM centre models with Mark Forrest and Matt Williams, while Susanna Price will spar with Antoine Vieillard-Baron on the pros and cons of intensivist-delivered bedside echo.  We’ve given the never-stale Luciano Gattinoni his own masterclass to review a working lifetime in ARDS; but unlike any other conference that he’s been in, we’ve paired him up in dialogue with Charlotte Summers to keep him on his toes: one of the grandest names in ARDS, put through his paces by one of the brightest next-generation stars.

Of course, this is only a very partial list, and talking about it in this way runs the risk of seeming divisive or too politically correct; and meanwhile, 27% may be a start, in a speciality where (on the medical side) only 10% of consultant intensivists are female: but it’s hardly outstanding.  However, the real point is, that we are on the move and making the conference ever fresher, bigger, and more ambitious.  If listing a few of the examples above has made you even slightly curious about the new programme, then my work here is done.   Come and look:; or download the extended flyer with programme details (  See you in December