BLA CONNECTIONS | Series 5,   Episode 1 

Handover of the BLA Presidency from Prof Guri Sandhu and Mr Declan Costello

Welcome to the first episode of series 5 of BLA Connections; A Clear Voice. In this episode, Natalie chats with the current President and Immediate President of the BLA, Mr Declan Costello and Prof Guri Sandhu.

Prof Sandhu  is  a founding member of the BLA and immediate past President of the Laryngology & Rhinology section at the RSM. He is a Consultant Otolaryngologist and Head & Neck Surgeon at Imperial College and The Royal Brompton Hospitals in London and an Honorary Senior Lecturer at Imperial College and University College London. He is a pioneering laryngologist with a special interest in laryngotracheal stenosis. In 2016 he received the Isshiki Award for his outstanding contribution to laryngology. Under his leadership, Prof  Sandhu has increased educational events both in-person and remotely, bringing the BLA community together again in person whilst keeping the accessibility online learning offers. Most notably, with a new venture as the BLA and the UEP will join forces to present a one-day meeting on voice-related topics. This inaugural meeting will occur on the 14th of September at the RSM London.

Mr Costello is also a founding member of the BLA. He is a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon specialising in voice disorders. He studied music at St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he was a choral scholar and went on to study medicine at Imperial College. As a singer himself, he has a particular interest in treating voice disorders in performers. He has published a number of books and has written many chapters, including the chapter on Larynx for the 42nd edition of Grey’s Anatomy. Declan is on the Presidential Council of the European Laryngological Society and the editor of ENT and Audiology News.

The panellists also look to the future of the BLA, including the upcoming joint meeting with the UEP fostering further international links for the association and further accessibility for all with an interest in laryngology with plans of further study days, workshops, podcasts and webinars.

Transcript

Prof Guri Sandhu

As an organisation, we were in a position where we had to offer advice to colleagues and also information and advice to the public. And the issues mainly were around what can we do surgically? What can we do with regards to tracheostomies? What is safe, what isn’t safe?

Mr Declan Costello

Guri really was the driving force behind the organisation coming into existence, and I will never forget that first meeting with Stephen Hawking speaking, it was absolutely extraordinary.

Prof Guri Sandhu

BLA is in safe hands.

Natalie Watson

Welcome to BLA Connections – A Clear Voice. Welcome to the first episode of Series Five. I’m your host, Natalie Watson, and I’m delighted to bring you discussions and insights from experts from across the globe on all things laryngology.

In today’s episode, we mark the handover of the presidency of the BLA from Professor Guri Sandhu to Mr Declan Costello. Guri Sandhu is a founding member of the BLA and past president of the Laryngology and Rhinology section at the RSM. He is a consultant laryngologist airways surgeon at Imperial College and the Royal Brompton hospitals in London and an honorary senior lecturer at Imperial College and University College London. He is a pioneering laryngologist, with a special interest in laryngotracheal stenosis. In 2016, he received the Isshiki Award for his outstanding contribution to laryngology.

We also welcome Declan Costello. Declan is a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon specialising in voice disorders. He studied music at St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he was a core scholar and went on to study medicine at Imperial College. As a singer himself, he has a particular interest in treating voice disorders in performers. He has published a number of books, and has written many chapters, including the chapter on Larynx for the 42nd edition of Grey’s Anatomy. Declan is on the Presidential Council of the European Laryngological Society, and you may have read his excellent editorials as editor of ENT and Audiology News. Thank you both so much for joining us today.

Prof Guri Sandhu

Hi, Good morning.

Mr Declan Costello

Lovely to be here.

Natalie Watson

So Guri, what will you remember most about your term as BLA president?

Prof Guri Sandhu

I think the world turned upside down a bit. So the whole issue with regards to COVID. As an organisation, we were in a position where we had to offer advice to colleagues, and also information and advice to the public. And the issues mainly were around what can we do surgically? What can we do with regards to tracheostomies? What is safe, what isn’t safe? So we had a big collaboration with the ENT UK, and some joint documents were produced at the time as guidance for our colleagues.

With regard to education, which is foremost an aim for the BLA. It changed, we weren’t meeting anymore. And we transitioned to webinars and online teaching, which as a sort of social animal, that’s a bit difficult, and it was challenging because you were doing everything from your bedroom or your office. And some of that has continued. But thankfully, we are going back to some face to face conferences now, and life is returning a little bit more to normal.

Natalie Watson

Oh it’s brilliant isn’t it? Well, thank you so much for navigating the association so well, during our post-COVID recovery. I just wanted to thank you, for your leadership and commitment. Do you have any tips or advice for Declan?

Prof Guri Sandhu

I don’t think Declan needs a great deal of advice. He’s a leader in the field of laryngology. He has a background in singing. And he is way more enthusiastic day to day than I am I’m afraid, but I think he’ll do an excellent job.

Natalie Watson

That’s not true Guri.

Mr Declan Costello

No, certainly not.

Natalie Watson

So, Declan. Firstly, congratulations on the presidency.

Mr Declan Costello

Thank you very much.

Natalie Watson

What do you hope to achieve during the two-year term?

Mr Declan Costello

Well I guess to carry on the work that Guri has done, and you know, Guri’s very modest there. It was a very difficult couple of years and actually, if we wind the clock back to when the BLA was set up, Guri really was the driving force behind the organisation coming into existence. And I’ll never forget that first meeting with Stephen Hawking; it was absolutely extraordinary.

Natalie Watson

Wasn’t it just?

Mr Declan Costello

Yeah, amazing. So Guri, huge thanks to you for everything you’ve done for the BLA.

What do I want to do for the organisation in the next couple of years? I mean, I guess our flagship meeting is the Cutting Edge meeting, and that will continue, our next meeting is going to be in 2024, which brings together really, as the title implies, the cutting edge of research and developments in laryngology.

I think I’d also like to build on a recent development which was a study day for voice clinics – assessment and diagnosis in the voice clinic. Really more at a sort of grassroots level, for the sort of job in laryngology, the job in SLT who are running voice clinics in diagnostic skills. And those are presented by voice teams from around the country. So I’d like to do more of that sort of thing, for teams who aren’t necessarily at a tertiary level, but are doing voice clinics and laryngology clinics very regularly. So yeah, more sort of grassroots stuff, if possible.

I think the other thing we could think about is working on international collaborations. As you say, I am on the Presidential Council of the European Laryngological Society, and I’m chair of their media committee. And I think there’s probably more we could do with working with international colleagues. We’ve got a great meeting coming up in September (14th), which is a joint meeting with the Union of European Phoniatricians. And that’s a meeting in London with some fantastic speakers from Japan, and several from Europe, and America. And that promises to be a very exciting meeting. And I think there’s a lot to be gained from international collaborations of that sort.

Natalie Watson

Yes, absolutely. And that’s on the 14th of September, isn’t it?

Mr Declan Costello

Yeah, that’s right. The Royal Society of Medicine.

Natalie Watson

I think it’s going to be a fantastic day, so if anybody does want to book onto that, they can go on our website and click on the event.

Mr Declan Costello

And that meeting is going to cover, in just one day, we’re going to cover a lot of territory. Voice, airway swallow, and neuro laryngology, with internationally renowned leaders in all four areas.

Natalie Watson

It’s very exciting and something that I’m very much looking forward to. So get your study leave booked, and you can book that online.

So finally a question to both, how do you see the future of the BLA? And also one of the biggest challenges of the field of laryngology? So how can the BLA support with those?

Prof Guri Sandhu

I think the direction that I’ve started in, Declan certainly is going to continue in, is to try and help allied health professionals who are involved in our clinics and in and in our practices; speech therapy, psychology, vocal coaches and the like. And it became clear to me, that their clinical exposure, and their ability to acquire basic skills in the field of laryngology was quite challenging. Eg Access to clinics, etc. And so one of the things that we did start was this speech therapy, mainly based at speech therapy, but obviously ENT doctors as well, slightly later, but happened recently and certainly that will grow.

So education is first and foremost for the BLA. And ultimately, it’s all about helping the public with what is new and what is possible.

Clinical challenges. There are a few. I’m looking forward to the vaccine for respiratory papillomatosis. It’s always on the horizon. I know it’s going through clinical trials, but I hope that will come out soon. And then there’s the holy grail of scar management, and we always think there’s something new just across the hill there. But that may happen. And the implantable aids that always seemed to you know, for bilateral vocal fold paralysis, etc. Maybe one day, we will have those as well.

Mr Declan Costello

There are lots of areas that have been chuntering away in the background for 20 years or more. I mean, as you say that the implants for bilateral vocal fold paralysis. We’ve been talking about those for a long, long time. And there are little kind of peaks and troughs of interest in developments. So it’d be interesting. We’re going to be at the ELS meeting in Milan in a couple of weeks. It’ll be interesting to see what there is there. Yeah, I agree. And again, the old chestnuts of challenges about laryngeal scar, airway scar, are we ever going to get to a point where those are resolved? We’ve been talking about them for a long time. So it’s difficult to know.

Yeah, I mean, in terms of other developments for the BLA specifically. I would, you know, consider myself to be an older laryngologist now, and I think bringing the younger generation along with us, I think is really important. And particularly when it comes to engagement in what we’re doing, and how younger ENT surgeons and SLTs want to learn, and want to engage with us. Social media has completely changed how we do things in the last 10 or 15 years. And no doubt in another 10 or 15 years, we’ll be doing things very differently as well. So I think it’s really great that we’ve got young, enthusiastic registrar’s on our council, and that we’re engaging with other organisations who are doing things differently as well. And we’ve got a brilliant media set up here at the BLA, with Heather. So I think, thinking about how we deliver our message, and how we deliver our teaching and our training, and how we disseminate information about research. I think it’s going to be really important.

Natalie Watson

And certainly we’re very open to any engagement from anyone who’s listening. So if anyone else has any ideas of which way we should be moving, please do email us at enquiries@britishlaryngological.org. Absolutely, yeah. So Well, thank you very much both. Have you any final words for the podcast today?

Mr Declan Costello

Absolutely, yeah.

Natalie Watson

Well, thank you very much both. Have you any final words for the podcast today?

Mr Declan Costello

I just want to say thank you very much to Guri, for everything you’ve done over the last couple of years, and everything you’ve done for laryngology in the UK generally actually. Huge figure.

Prof Guri Sandhu

Thank you. Good luck to you, the BLA is in safe hands.

Mr Declan Costello

Thank you.

Natalie Watson

Thank you very much both for joining us today, sharing your experiences of the BLA and sharing what you hope to be the future of the BLA and laryngology in the UK.

We hope you have enjoyed listening to BLA Connections, A Clear Voice. I have been your host, Natalie Watson. Please do tune in this series, for more laryngology topics. We would also love to hear from you. Please feel free to email with any topics you would like us to explore, any questions you have, along with any suggested experts you would like to hear from. Also, if you’d like to contribute to these podcasts, please email enquiries@britishlaryngological.org

Our full series can be found in the podcast provider of your choice, or you will find all stored on our BLA Connect app for easy access. Thank you to all our listeners. And we hope you have found our podcast informative. Please remember to subscribe and do leave a review with your podcast provider. We do appreciate your likes, subscribes and reviews.

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This show is brought to you by the British Laryngological Association and is  hosted by Natalie Watson @surgeonsinger and produced and directed by Heather Pownall of Heather’s Media Hub Ltd.

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