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End of a 25-year association with the EAU

Prof. Rassweiler finishes second term as Section Office Chair at EAU24

The 39th Annual EAU Congress in Paris marks the end of a long and storied affiliation between the EAU and its colourful Section Office chair, Prof. Jens Rassweiler (AT). Prof. Rassweiler was elected to the position in Munich at EAU16, having previously served two terms as chairman of the EAU Section of Uro-Technology (ESUT).

These positions, combined with previous affiliation with the European School of Urology as a representative of ESUT, means that Prof. Rassweiler has been actively involved in uro-technology and training within the EAU for half of the Association’s lifetime.

The first EAU Congress Prof. Rassweiler visited was 1986, in Budapest. Since the mid-1990s, he has been a regular presence at the annual event. In the late 1990s, ESUT was founded as an independent society, but under then-Secretary General Prof. Frans Debruyne, efforts were made to keep the subspecialties on board within the EAU. Hence ESUT joined the EAU as its first section.

Becoming chair
When Prof. Rassweiler succeeded Prof. Luis Martínez-Piñeiro as Chair of the Section Office, he was given a clear mission:

“When I was interviewing for the position, I was given more or less two tasks: to bring in-office urologists to the Section Office, and to ideally do the same with paediatric urology, as represented in ESPU.”

“Relationships had been close and cordial for many years, with memorandums of understanding, mutual participation in events, but for ESPU to become an EAU Section turned out to be a bridge too far. Instead, we worked with the Young Academic Urologists in creating the EAU Working Group on Paediatric Urology, as currently headed by Prof. Selcuk Silay. This allows paediatric experts within the EAU to join up and work closely with the ESPU. In the end, I feel this is a good solution.”

“With the Office Urologists, the first chairman Prof. Helmut Haas more or less raised the possibility and with support by myself and Prof. Wirth, we welcomed them in 2017 as the ESUO, now the Section for Outpatient and Office Urology. Over the years, it has transformed into a phenomenon beyond Germanspeaking countries, currently with a Greek chair and represented throughout the Association and Congress.”

“Over time other challenges appeared, of course. When COVID-19 hit the world in 2020, we intensified collaboration with the ESU and the Guidelines Office to offer online education. These webinars are still running and popular, a successful collaboration in that sense. In recent years, we have also been looking at the best way to support research. In the coming years, research will have a larger and distinct presence at the Annual EAU Congress. This was one of the last tasks for me to work on as chair.”

After eight years, is it possible to point to a ‘proudest achievement’ as Section Office chair? Prof. Rassweiler: “I think was able to represent and support the sections. Whenever we ran into an issue, whether that is related to the School, the Board or the Executive, I represented the voice of the Sections and was able to solve it. I felt it was my task to represent the EAU Sections on the EAU Board, and less the other way around. I feel I served the Sections well.”

A successor
Prof. Rassweiler will be succeeded as Section Chair by Prof. Thomas Knoll (DE). Thomas Knoll is an Associate Professor of Urology at Mannheim University Hospital Medical School, part of the University of Heidelberg. He also serves as Vice Medical Director at Sindelfingen-Boeblingen Medical Center, University of Tuebingen, Germany.

Knoll has been associated with the EAU since 2000, having served, among others, as Vice-Chair in both the Guideline Group on Urolithiasis and for the EAU’s Urolithiasis Section EULIS. He sits on the editorial boards of various scientific journals, is an Ex-Officio member of the ESU and serves as a consultant to the Scientific Congress Office.

Prof. Rassweiler is happy with the choice of Knoll as his successor: “I’ve known Thomas for a long time and I now work under him at the department in Sindelfingen. We were both trained by Peter Alken, but at different times. I know about some other candidates who were also very good, but happy my successor is someone with a broad clinical education.”

“I think this is mainly due to the German system, there are not so many countries where urology is still organised in such a broad sense. In France or the UK, urologists become super-specialised in uro-oncology and no longer deal with stones, for example. Thomas is also very experienced in the Guideline office, and served as Vice-Chair of EULIS. He will know a bit about all the Sections, represent all interests. It might not be necessary for Executive members to cover the whole spectrum of urology because these are more political roles, but I feel for the Section Chair, you need distinct knowledge about each Section’s specialty.”

Future of urology
Apart from his EAU positions, Prof. Rassweiler is an extremely experienced urologist who has ‘operated’ at the forefront of uro-technology for many decades. We asked him to reflect on the direction the field is taking in the near future:

“Over the course of my career alone, we’ve seen the introduction of ESWL, endourology, laparoscopy, and robotic surgery. How we’ve managed to reduce the blood loss factor in this time, it’s changed so dramatically. I see a promising future in what I’m currently working on: extracorporeal shockwave therapy in regenerative medicine. I think we have to see how we can use energies, transmitted extracorporeally to improve functions of the bladder.”

“More recently, it’s clear that AI will continue to evolve and become more useful for urologists. We might be going towards the ‘augmented surgeon’ but there are still a lot of limitations at the moment, specifically in soft tissue navigation. We will still need the surgeon as every patient is unique, and this won’t change. Drugs are also constantly in development, hopefully a new generation of antibiotics or other ways to deal with infections.”

“As a field, of course we will see further subspecialisation, we cannot avoid this. The next generation of urologists will specialise in endourology, uro-oncology, andrology, a fragmentation of urology. We are already seeing this in the UK and the USA: urologists might start with a relatively broad education and then rapidly specialise, leading to fewer urologists who can master the whole field. Ironically, this is of course what the EAU Sections have been doing over the past 25 years, so who am I to criticise this?”