Today, Professor Franz Weidinger (Klinik Landstrasse - Vienna, Austria) will embark on his two-year mandate as President of the ESC. But what attracted him to take on such a huge responsibility and how will he drive the society forward?
Prof. Weidinger began his journey with the ESC around 20 years ago. “The start of the millennium was a very exciting time in interventional cardiology, with the emergence of new technologies, such as drug-eluting stents and primary percutaneous coronary intervention for STEMI,” he says. “I wanted to play a bigger part in advancing science and becoming a member of the ESC Working Groups for Interventional Cardiology and for the Pathogenesis of Atherosclerosis seemed an ideal way to achieve this.” Subsequently, being involved in the transition of the Working Group on Interventional Cardiology into one of the ESC’s early associations, the European Association of Percutaneous Cardiovascular Interventions (EAPCI), and serving on ESC registry committees, including Euro Heart Survey and the EURObservational Research Programme, helped to build his understanding of both the capabilities and the complexities of a large society.
After being elected as a councillor in 2016, he underlines it was the support of his peers that led him on a progression to the presidency. “Putting myself forward seemed really exciting but also very daunting! However, with the encouragement of many colleagues, I became more confident that running for President Elect would be the real fulfilment of my dream to further serve the ESC,” he explains. “I realised that being in the position of President would help to broaden interactions with many great colleagues who share the same interest in contributing to the ESC’s mission of reducing the burden of CVD,” he says.
It is this service that really inspires Prof. Weidinger: “I have great respect for the position of President and will do my utmost to optimise collaborations between expert scientists, clinicians and all types of stakeholders so that we can take our field forward together.” But he knows that the road ahead holds challenges. “In the midst of a global crisis – politically, economically and environmentally – and still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are facing difficult times. We are also entering an era of exciting but disruptive changes relating to the ways that we treat patients and perform research,” he states. “As a community, we need a new mind set – we must embrace the wealth of new technologies and management approaches that are being developed if we want to remain pivotal in the health sector. We must look forward, innovate and keep ahead of the curve in this fast-moving world.”
As one of his key presidential goals, Prof. Weidinger emphasises his commitment to exploiting technology. “I want to increase our competence for digital health and big data analysis so that observational research in the ESC becomes an active part of our daily remit. In this respect, setting up a data centre is an inspirational target.” Also on Prof. Weidinger’s agenda is the continued need to reach out to patients as empowered partners: “Doctors and healthcare professionals are deluged with so much data and so many complex situations, but it is vital we remember the importance of clarity – we need to ensure that we always communicate directly and clearly with our patients.”
Another priority for Prof. Weidinger is to develop closer contacts with ESC National Cardiac Societies. “The ESC sees its 57 member societies as the bedrock of the society and an invaluable strength,” he comments. “Having been limited to online meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is time to reconnect more fully with our member cardiac societies and provide extra support. For example, facilitating guidelines implementation or improving access to novel therapies – doing whatever we can to meet their country-specific needs.”
And what does the man heading up the largest CV society in the world do when he isn’t trying to reduce the burden of CVD? “I enjoy anything that keeps me fit and brings back balance and provides inspiration,” he says. “For me that’s running, being outside with nature, reading, listening to music, enjoying the cultural life in Vienna and meeting with friends.” Prof. Weidinger aims to bring this same energy to his presidency and is confident that ESC members will support him on his journey. He has this final message: “Let’s rise to the opportunities and challenges together!”