heart of the matter

Over the past few years the Royal College has hosted a number of leadership lectures from distinguished individuals, in a wide variety of fields.

Thus far, the list has included, Lord Chris Patton, Sir Tom Farmer, Sir Alex Ferguson, Dame Elish Angiolini, Sir Jock Stirrup, The Rev Norman Drummond and Lord Smith of Kelvin.

They all brought a different, but at all times, meaningful perspective to the Leadership skills which made them so successful.

Last week we had a leadership lecture from Sir Tom Hunter, who began to make his fortune by selling running shoes from the back of a van.

By the age of 37 he was a multi-millionaire, and since then has distributed a sizeable part of his fortune to charitable causes, focussed largely in Scotland and sub-Saharan Africa.

I remember one Sunday a number of years ago listening on the radio to Sir Tom discussing charitable giving and indicating the need to approach this in the same way as we approach our investments or other use of our finances. The easy route with charitable giving is to write a cheque and hope it reaches its target.

Sir Tom emphasised the need for a charity portfolio similar to an investment portfolio with the same rigour being applied.

This is why he has been so successful in making a difference in many areas through strategic philanthropy.

The Royal College now has a charity committee, which reviews applications for financial help.

We have supported applicants, in particular, who go overseas to train health care workers in key procedures.

An example of this is a special treatment for cancer of the oesophagus (gullet) which can be narrowed from cancer, causing difficulty swallowing.

This can be very distressing and can be eased by widening the inside of the oesophagus, using a procedure known as endoscopy.

One of our Fellows and council members, Dr Adrian Stanley, goes to Malawi every year and trains medical and nursing staff to perform this procedure.

Thanks to Greater Glasgow Health Board, a number of endoscopes no longer required here are donated each year.

On each return visit, Dr Stanley checks on the progress of the trained staff and trains a new group.

Other conditions can also be diagnosed and treated, using endoscopy.

I can think of no better way to assist our colleagues in Africa than by giving them the opportunity to benefit from such expertise.

The College has also, together with the English College of Surgeons, supported our trainees going to Africa to deliver clinical skills courses for trainees in that continent.

I was most impressed by the awareness among our young doctors to contribute to the major challenges faced in Africa.

The current mortality from fairly straightforward operations concerns surgeons, both trained and in training. Such measures as these clinical skills courses are invaluable.

During his lecture, Sir Tom Hunter quoted the great Scot philanthroper Andrew Carnegie, who said: “A man who dies rich dies disgraced”.

Sir Tom is following in Andrew Carnegie’s footsteps with philanthropy dominating much of his current day to day activities, to the benefit of both Scotland and Africa.

It led me to reflect on how I might improve my charitable giving.

Dr Frank Dunn (pictured)has been President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow since December 2012.