Stefan Renvert stood down as the EFP’s secretary general at last April’s general assembly in Berlin after six years in the post. Looking back on his time in office, he highlights the EFP’s increasing professionalisation but adds that the federation should not become an organisation run by professionals and that the volunteers “need to stay in control of the business.”
Prof Renvert says that a priority for the EFP is to improve the way it engages with the national societies and he offers a proposal about how this might be done. He also stresses the importance of maintaining the “EFP spirit” and says that the federation must continue on the basis of “one society, one vote – no matter the size.”
He talks about how the EuroPerio congress has evolved into a triennial event that attracts up to 10,000 people but notes that the EFP is highly dependent on EuroPerio for the funds it needs for other projects.
In addition, Renvert highlights the launch of the EFP Perio Master Clinic as an important innovation, as it enables smaller national societies to host EFP events, now that EuroPerio has become so big that very few European venues can accommodate it. He is the scientific chairman of the second Perio Master Clinic, which takes place in Malta in March 2017.
The former EFP secretary general also praises the launch of the JCP Digest, which offers easy-to-understand but high-quality reporting of scientific articles from the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.
However, he expresses his frustration at the slow progress being made with the campaign to get the European Union to recognise periodontology as a speciality, saying that “neither the executive committee nor I realised the complexity of a project like this.”
What do you feel you have achieved as the EFP's secretary general during your six years in this post and how has the EFP evolved during this time? What have been the most important new initiatives?
During my six years as secretary general, I have been working with the strategic objectives laid out by the Executive Committee (EC) and the General Assembly (GA).
The EFP has during my time become more professionalised. We have gone from an organisation completely based on voluntary work to a more professional organisation. One example is how the handling of EuroPerio congresses – one of the major assets of the EFP – has evolved.
Up until EuroPerio 6 in Stockholm in 2009, we selected a new professional congress organiser (PCO) for each event. This was not productive and during my first period as secretary general a decision was taken to have a core PCO. This led to the selection of Mondial Congress & Events and has proved to be a landmark decision which has made the handling of congresses more professional. EFP congresses need to develop continuously and the best way to do that is to work with a professional partner.
The growth of the EuroPerio congresses has also meant that changes in the way of arranging them were needed. There are very few venues in Europe that meet the EFP’s requirements for 10,000 attendees. In light of this, the EFP decided to make it possible for all member societies to be able to host and organise an EFP congress by launching the “master clinic” concept.
The EFP Perio Master Clinic is a small, highly specialised congress for a smaller audience that could be held in any of the member-society countries. The first master clinic, covering peri-implant plastic and reconstructive surgery, took place successfully in Paris in 2014 and the second one, devoted to “peri-implantitis: from aetiology to treatment”, is due to take place in Malta in March 2017.
Improving external communications
Another strategic objective was to improve external communication and therefore a new committee – the external affairs committee – was formed at the Ljubljana 2010 general assembly. It is important to communicate to different types of stakeholders the values that the EFP stands for and what we do as a non-profit organisation. We are the leading periodontal organisation in the world and to communicate this message we have also taken on professional support. This has improved the communication of things happening within the EFP, especially the work produced at our yearly EFP workshops.
Following the 2012 joint workshop with the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) on the link between periodontitis and general diseases, it became obvious that the EFP needed professional help to disseminate the results to all our stakeholders. Within the external affairs committee, a plan was developed and since then the communication has improved, with a new branding, a new website, the EFP News bulletin, press releases, and with new projects and collaborations pending. For example, a major effort has been made to communicate the link between periodontal disease and general diseases.
In the current strategic plan (2013-2017) one new major issue was included – public awareness. The objective was to improve the awareness of periodontal and peri-implant diseases and their impact on oral and general health and well-being. This has also been worked on by the external affairs committee in conjunction with an external partner (Nítida Branding). To my mind, however, it is crucial that the aims and objectives for such campaigns are decided and followed by the executive committee so that we receive the anticipated outcome (value for money) – otherwise it may be very costly.
One of my ambitions as secretary general was to improve communication with our members. I wanted to develop an easy-to-understand but high-quality reporting of scientific articles from the Journal of Clinical Periodontology. The project was given the name “JCP Digest”. Since many of our members are not specialists in periodontology, I felt it to be our duty to offer something both scientifically and clinically relevant but at the same time manageable for individuals who are not part of the academic circle. Accordingly, the target group was all our members interested in periodontology but that maybe felt that the Journal of Clinical Periodontology was a bit too much and difficult to digest every month. It started very slowly, but now the JCP Digest is a reality and I am really happy about this.
Recognition of the speciality
During my time as secretary general, we also worked hard to try to get periodontology recognised as a speciality in Europe. To accomplish this an external strategic officer (Nairn Wilson) was appointed and we also contacted a lobbying firm in Brussels to help us in this project. This has been a slow and costly project. I think that neither the executive committee nor I realised the complexity of a project like this and we are, of course, disappointed that we could not achieve this goal. In order not to spend additional money, the project has been put on hold until more countries recognised periodontology as a speciality. Then, in the future, the executive committee may decide to reactivate the project.
Is there anything you feel that the EFP might have done better over this period?
One thing that we have tried during my time as secretary general is to engage the national societies more. I feel that this is one of the areas that the EFP needs to put more focus on and it is one of the things I would like to have done better during my time in office. We have started a number of new projects and maybe the time was not there to have another focused area. A new format for the general assembly was introduced in Jerusalem in March 2013 to further improve the links between member societies and the executive committee, but this is not enough.
I do think that this is an urgent matter for the EFP. We need to strengthen the federation so that we all help each other to improve and develop, and I propose that the executive committee focus on this issue. One way might be to assign to each newly elected board member five or six societies to work closely with during their five years on the EC. This means that the member would visit all these societies in order to get to know their structure and the potential of each of them.
We know that there are huge differences between our member societies in terms of economic resources and therefore what they can accomplish in their countries. Working more closely could be a big benefit as many things can be shared to improve the transfer of knowledge between societies to achieve our main goal, which is “to promote periodontology”.
What do you consider to be the most important challenges facing the EFP in the coming years?
During my time as secretary general, the EFP has gone from being a completely voluntarily run organisation to being more dependent on professional assistance. This is a natural development if the EFP is to fulfil the strategic objectives decided by the general assembly. Engaging professional people has many advantages but it is also costly and I think that the executive committee and the general assembly should prioritise and decide how best to spend our resources.
The EFP is highly dependent on the EuroPerios to have the finances to run our projects. We need to allocate resources for a potential EuroPerio failure – things happen so fast in our world today and a terrorist attack near an EuroPerio or a Perio Master Clinic venue could mean that speakers and attendees might decide not to go, which would have a huge impact on our ability to run our projects.
Engaging professionals to help us requires a clear vision of what needs to be done. I would not like to see the EFP as an organisation run by professional people. Already in 2009 there was a discussion about having an executive officer, but this was put on hold, which I think was a wise decision. We, as volunteers, need to stay in control of the business.
Another challenge is to keep the EFP spirit. We are a federation, with one society, one vote – no matter the size. If politics and power are allowed to infiltrate the EFP, I would see it as a major threat to the organisation. On the executive committee, we serve the EFP as individuals – not as representatives of our individual home societies – and we serve the EFP to the best of our abilities. I think that “Brexit” is a reminder of what can happen when too much politics gets involved! Let us not go down that route.
What would you describe as the highlights of your time as secretary general?
There are too many highlights to mention. What I will always keep in my heart is the friendship between all these fantastic people working in this wonderful organisation. This has also developed into personal friendship between spouses over the years.
I will always remember the enthusiasm among all of us for working towards a common goal. It has truly been a great experience for me to work together with all these fantastic people that devote time and effort to the EFP without any monetary compensation. It has been a fantastic experience that, of course, in some aspects I will miss in the future now that I am no longer secretary general.
I would like to thank everyone for their support over the past six years. To serve as the EFP’s secretary general has been a great honour and something I am very proud of. I wish the EFP all the best in the future.
Prof Stefan Renvert:
Stefan Renvert is Professor of Oral Health Sciences at Kristianstad University, Sweden, Honorary Professor at Dublin Dental Hospital, Ireland, and also Guest Professor at the Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona, Sweden. Professor Renvert has served as president of the Swedish Society of Periodontology, as Scientific Chairman of Europerio 5 in Madrid in 2005, and as chairman of Europerio 6 in Stockholm in 2009. He is Scientific Chairman of the EFP Perio Master Clinic 2017. Professor Renvert has published more than 200 scientific papers. His research focuses on treatment of peri-implantitis, oral malodor, periodontal health and disease in the elderly population, and the association of periodontal disease with general diseases.