November 1, 2021
Prof. Michael Griffin, OBE, became president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 2018 while he was a consultant esophagogastric cancer surgeon at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K. A Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and a Council Member since 2009, he was previously the chair of the Joint Committee for Intercollegiate Examinations, president of the Association of Upper GI Surgeons, and president of the European Society of Diseases of the Oesophagus.
Professor Griffin qualified in medicine in 1978 from the University Newcastle upon Tyne medical school. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and was awarded the prestigious Welcome Surgical Training Scholarship in 1983. He received his certificate of accreditation for higher surgical training in 1988 and received his doctor of medicine in 1989. From his early days of training, his goal was always to improve outcomes for patients who suffered from esophageal and gastric cancer, and he spent his final year of training at the Prince of Wales Hospital at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, China, studying esophageal cancer surgery and complex interventional endoscopy.
He was appointed consultant upper gastrointestinal (GI) surgeon in Newcastle and professor of gastrointestinal surgery at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 2000. In the U.K., he developed a unique and novel approach to the treatment of esophagogastric malignancies and a whole improved skill set for surgical training in this area. These new radical and innovative treatment options took hold, and soon the Northern Oesophagogastric Cancer Unit, which was set up in 1990, had developed into the largest-volume unit in Europe and North America.
Previously, only 2 percent of patients had lived for more than five years post curative treatment, but this figure dramatically rose to more than 50 percent at Newcastle over the subsequent 25 years. At the outset in 1990, Professor Griffin set up the first multidisciplinary team meeting in the U.K. for esophagogastric malignancies, and it was subsequently rolled out across the country.
Professor Griffin became known for his revolutionary approach to treating esophagogastric cancer and championing the cause of specialization and was instrumental in the improving outcomes program for upper GI cancer by encouraging and spearheading the centralization of services in the U.K., which led to him being awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty The Queen in 2013 for his services to cancer treatment.
After 30 years of clinical practice as a consultant esophagogastric surgeon at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne, he left clinical practice to become president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. His passion throughout his clinical career was communication with patients and their families, and he has lectured and run courses to help clinicians across the specialties improve the messages they convey. He contributed significantly to the published literature on upper GI cancer and surgical education and was awarded Honorary Fellowships in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, the Royal Colleges of Surgeons in Ireland, the College of Surgeons of Sri Lanka, and the Association of Surgeons in India in 2019. Most recently, he was recognized with honorary fellowship by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
During his presidency, he has acknowledged the deeply difficult and worrying time within the National Health Service as well as the huge financial pressures and the difficult decisions they have had to face. He has ensured that the Royal Colleges remain on course throughout the challenging last 18 months of the coronavirus 2019 pandemic. He has been steadfast in his belief that surgery is only as good as the next generation of surgeons and the importance of trainees to the future and the development of the surgical discipline. He has held visiting professorships in North America, Asia, Australia, and all over Europe. Above all, his commitment has been to patients and their families, those who have faced what is the great challenge of a cancer journey.