To accompany his Newsround report in the October/November 2019 issue, Editor Andrew Burd shares the story of how the APBA was set up.

I am gearing myself up mentally to write the second part of the article on acid attacks and also a brief report on the 12th Asia Pacific Burn Congress (APBC) held recently in Singapore. In the process of preparation, I was searching through some old files and came across one related to the Asia Pacific Burn Association (APBA) and another related to the first ever World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) conference held in Delhi in 2015 (http://www.wame.org/WAME2015/welcome_letter.html)

I get a certain sense of satisfaction when I see diverse threads coming together to weave the rich tapestry of life. My professional life has been almost exclusively dedicated to plastic surgery related to burns, but whilst this may be a narrow clinical spectrum, the depth of involvement is substantial; history, politics, prevention, acute care, reconstruction, clinical and laboratory science. There will be a book in due course but in the meantime, I want to share some background. This begins in the form of a position statement regarding the APBA written in 2009.

 

The Asia Pacific Burns Association

“The greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred”.

George Bernard Shaw.

Pre-amble

The 2003 APBC was held in Brisbane, Australia in conjunction with the Annual meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Burns Association. There had been no prior arrangement for the customary meeting of the Asian delegates to decide on the host of the 2005 APBC and so an ad hoc meeting was held. The representatives from the Asian countries had agreed informally that Shanghai should host the meeting but an unfortunate misunderstanding by the then President of the ISBI resulted in the statement that it was the ISBI who decided who should host the APBC causing considerable confusion and dismay amongst the Asian representatives. Robust and vigorous emails were exchanged and in a conciliatory move it was decided to hold an APBC business meeting in Yokohama at the 2004 ISBI meeting. At this meeting there was a unanimous decision taken by the Asian delegates to form a regional association. A poll (email and letter) was taken of over 1000 burns care professionals within the Asia Pacific region which also indicated strong support for a regional burns association.

A website was established (www.apburn.org) and the initial mission statement regarding The Asia Pacific Burns Association was stated as:

The aim is to make this association inclusive for all those involved in burns care and to make it accessible to all who want to participate. It is essential that it compliments and supports the work of the ISBI as is the case with the other regional associations.

A steering committee was chosen to determine the nature, constitution and mission of the association. I was honoured to be appointed as the Chairman of that Committee and the members were as follows:

Professor Zhao-Fan Xia from Shanghai

Ms Sheila Kavanagh from Adelaide, Australia

Professor Rajeev Ahuja from Delhi, India

Dr Dong-Chul Kim from Seoul, Korea

Professor Young-Chul Jang & Professor Suk-Joon Oh both from the Hallym Burns Centre, Korea.

Professor S T Lee who hosted the First Asia Pacific Burns Congress in Singapore was requested to act as a senior advisor to the committee.

The Committee set out to review the Constitutions of the ABA, the ISBI, the EBA, the Mediterranean Burns Association – and discussions took place on variations of these established constitutions to reflect the particular challenges of the Asia Pacific region, not the least being the population, size, disparity of wealth and political diversity. A preliminary draft was presented in Shanghai in the 5th APBC in 2005 and further modifications were made and a Second Draft Constitution was presented in the 6th APBC in 2007 held in Korea.

The principle concerns expressed in the meeting held on 4 June 2007 at the Hotel Lotte were as follows:

Article 2:       The list of countries and regions mentioned was not inclusive and specifically Tibet, Sikkim, Myanmar, Laos and East Timor were not mentioned.  Concern was also expressed regarding the political sensitivity of China and Chinese Taipei.

Article 3:       The “Seat” of the Association being Hong Kong.

Article 7:       The categories of Membership.

Article 8:       The membership fee.

Stewardship

Article 9: The concept of permanent and non-permanent members of the Executive was too similar to the United Nations.

Article 10: How are national representatives identified.

Article 11: Practical difficulties of arranging annual meeting of the Executive.

The other articles were accepted as non-contentious.

In view of the above a further draft has been drawn up and is appended.

Proposal – to be considered at the APBC – Business Meeting in Chinar Hall 18/1/2009, 10:00-11:00

If we consider the United States of America, this was founded with the Declaration of Independence (from Great Britain) on 4 July 1776. It took another 11 years, 17 September 1787 before the formal Constitution was adopted, i.e. we can establish the Asia Pacific Burns Association without a formal, finalised constitution. I propose we do this.

1) We can agree on a draft constitution that addresses all of the concerns raised in Seoul.

Specifically, the Association will:

  • Have no designated seat.
  • Be an association of individuals.
  • Have open membership.
  • No fee.

2) I propose that we formally declare, not our Independence but our Interdependence and establish the Asia Pacific Burns Association on 20 January 2009.

3) I propose the founding Executive Committee to comprise the following twelve individuals:

1)       Professor Rajeev Ahuja as the Founding President

2)       Dr Chomchark Chuntrasakui as the President Elect

3)       Professor Le Nam as the President Elect (in waiting)

(The Original Steering CommitteeJ)

4)       Professor Andrew Burd

5)       Professor Zhao-Fan Xia

6)       Ms Sheila Kavanagh

7)       Dr Dong-Chul Kim

8)       Professor Yung-Chul Jang

9)       Professor Suk-Joon Oh

And invite:

  • Professor Peter Maitz
  • Dr Jui-Jung Yang
  • Dr Naoki Aikawa

4) I propose that we open the Association for Membership and activate the website previously developed.

What remains to be discussed is the nature of the opening ceremony which should take place during the General Assembly of the APBC on 20 January, 1530-1630.

Andrew Burd HK, 16-9-2009.

 

We were idealistic and hopeful that we could grow and work together with a focus on patients. The problem was that there had been some problems with the International Society of Burn Injury (ISBI). Some may be aware of the European Club for Paediatric Burns (ECPB). You can find out more from this website regarding the 2019 meeting (http://www.ecpb2019.org/)  and there is an open access PDF related to Zora Janžekovič (https://www.jprasurg.com/article/S1748-6815(08)00028-4/pdf)  that becomes of relevance to this unfolding story. The ECPB is a wonderful group of dedicated souls and yes, there were those who looked on with a sense of envy at how we worked so well together. I remember David Heimbach making a visit to one of our workshops proposing that the ECPB should combine with the ISBI and have a meeting in Seattle in 2002. This did not fit in with the policy of the ECPB, which was to hold a world congress hosted by the secretary of the club at the end of their three-year term. I was the secretary at the time and had the honour and pleasure of hosting the 3rd World Congress of the ECPB on 7-9 November 2002 in Hong Kong. The following URL reveals the program book which contains a most wonderful poem written by a young man who had travelled to Laos at the time of the Vietnam war to witness the devastating nature of napalm used in the illegal bombing of the Hồ Chí Minh trail (http://www.ecpb.info/fileadmin/ws2002/ecpb2002pb.pdf) Of note, The Hồ Chí Minh trail was “a logistical system that ran from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam to the Republic of Vietnam through the Kingdoms of Laos and Cambodia.” (source Wikipedia). The poem features in page 7 of the program and is called “For a young woman who stopped growing after being napalmed”. The author was Nigel Grey who now lives in Australia. Of note, the reason the bombing was illegal was that it took place on sovereign territory not involved in the war.

The problem was, and remains, that conferences and congresses are seen by too many as opportunities to promote individuals and departments and to generate income. David Heimbach was concerned about the financial viability of the ISBI meeting in Seattle because the ISBI policy was to have high registration fees and five-star hotel conference venues. Older readers will remember David Heimbach fondly as one of the two Davids who dominated the burns conference circuit in the 1980s and 90s. The other David being David Herndon of Total Burn Care fame. And so, we return to Brisbane in 2003. The ISBI meetings had been held every four years but an executive decision had been made to have them as bi-annual events. The 2004 ISBI meeting was planned for Yokohama in Japan and there was the understandable concern about attendance. This was the reason for the tense meeting, tantamount to an attempted coup of the Asia Pacific Burns Congress by the ISBI. It was the sense of entitlement that I do not like and following on my previous experience with the ECPB I urged the Asia Pacific Burns community to form our own independent association. And that is what has happened. We have a healthy and vibrant APBA and in the Newsround section of The PMFA Journal I report on the 12th APBC.

One last image from the archives:

 

You can see that with just the APBA and the ISBI there is a busy calendar but when you add in all the other meetings one really has to pick and choose. I am glad that I am not involved in organising meetings anymore but I think our younger colleagues need to carefully consider branding and unique selling points to make the meetings stand out with a unique character and flair.

CONTRIBUTOR
Andrew Burd (Prof)

The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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