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All the latest news in thermology, plus the EAT President's blog items...

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Francis Ring

President's blog 19 JUL 2019: A Life Scientific

When I joined the Royal Free Hospital in London in 1992, with a new physics degree from the University of Birmingham, I was immediately set the task of helping the Rheumatology Department develop their fledgling clinical measurement service.

The department was fortunate to possess some rudimentary infrared thermography equipment, with the intention that this would help us to assess conditions such as Raynaud's phenomenon in both clinical and research settings. At the time of my arrival, we had made only limited progress with the apparatus, and it certainly wasn't clear to me how we could use the technique reproducibly and reliably. The Head of Department in those days, Dr. Carol Black (now Dame Prof. Carol Black), suggested I travel to Bath in the west of England to seek the advice of a Consultant Clinical Scientist who already had around 30 years of experience in thermography. This was how I came to meet Francis Ring for the first time.

When I arrived at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases for my appointment with Francis, I was amazed to discover that he had cleared most of his diary commitments for the next two days in order to ensure I could receive personal tuition from him about every possible aspect of infrared thermography. Every question I asked was answered patiently by supplying reading material from Francis' vast collection of published research, or directing me to the work of others. I returned to London with a bag full of books and papers, and a new confidence that we could develop a successful thermography service in London.

Many of us in thermology have stories like this to share about Francis. He had the rare quality in a busy person of finding the time to help everyone. He was a true polymath, with passionate interests which included astronomy, music, photography and the history of science (in particular, the life of infrared discoverer William Herschel).

Away from the field of thermology, Francis developed notable professional expertise in other areas of clinical measurement. He ran a well-regarded and successful bone densitometry service in Bath, for example. But, of course, within the EAT we remember best of all his lifetime of contribution to the discipline of infrared thermography.

Francis and his team in Bath were the first to demonstrate that thermography could be a reliable outcome measure in studies of anti-inflammatory medication, and also performed some of the earliest work in the quantitative evaluation of peripheral vascular disorders such as Raynaud's phenomenon.

It was Francis who fully recognised the need for good quality-assurance and reproducible protocols, and normative data in thermography. Without these elements in place, he understood that the technique would not be accepted by the medical profession. He served two terms as President of the EAT, and his experience in evidence-based thermological methods, and ability to communicate to both scientists and clinicians, was vital to the success of our organisation.

At an age when many consultants turn permanently to gardening, the ever-energetic Francis moved from the NHS to found the Medical Imaging Group at the University of Glamorgan with Peter Plassmann. Here was an environment where many of the outstanding research questions in thermography could finally be addressed. Many of us benefited from the PhD programme at Glamorgan, and Francis was rightly proud of the huge impact the Group had on the training of the next generation of thermologists. Just a few weeks ago, Francis wrote to me to point out (politely, as always) that what we now call the "EAT Short Course in Medical Thermography" was really a syllabus developed and refined at Glamorgan.

In later life, Francis was still traveling regularly to congresses: many of you will remember his presentation in London in July 2018, reinforcing the important message that fever screening could only be performed reliably by adhering to the ISO standards he had played such a large role in developing. Despite his obvious failing health, he was as full of anecdotes and good humour at the congress gala dinner as always.

Francis’ first book, “Human Body Temperature” written with Y. Houdas and published in 1982, grew to be recognised as a key textbook on thermal physiology. His last, “The Thermal Human Body” written with his friend of many years, the EAT’s Kurt Ammer, was published just last month and will definitely come to be regarded as highly as the work with Houdas. A copy arrived at my laboratory on the morning I heard from Peter of Francis’ passing.

Francis death, peacefully on 15th July at the age of 83, is a loss to the EAT of our greatest scientific influence and closest friend. He would probably be proud of some comparison of his career to that of his beloved William Herschel, but I would personally prefer to liken Francis to an even earlier British thinker, the scientist, architect and astronomer Sir Christopher Wren. Wren's masterpiece, St. Paul's Cathedral in London, bears the inscription "si monumentum requiris, circumspice" - "if you require his monument, look around."

The next time we all meet at a thermology congress, look around. The researchers from across the world who are working to produce quantifiable, evidence-based medical thermography are Francis' legacy.


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Kevin Howell

President's blog 31 DEC 2018: Review of the year, and looking forward to 2019

2018 was a busy year for the EAT, as we would expect of any year in which the EAT Congress falls. Over 80 delegates attended the XIV Congress at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, UK in July. This was one of our strongest meetings yet, with over 50 abstracts for posters and oral presentations accepted. Our friends at NPL provided a world-class venue, and delegates also enjoyed an excellent social programme, attending the EAT Gala Dinner, and also touring the historic Hampton Court Palace.

NPL was also the venue for our "Short Course in Medical Thermography," the syllabus for which was extensively revised by the teaching Faculty during the first half of 2018. For the first time, the Course was approved for CPD credits by the London Royal College of Physicians. All of this hard work paid off, with the Course being fully subscribed, and well-received by all 12 students.

Once again, our Polish friends ran a very successful meeting in April 2018 in Zakopane. Congratulations are due to Armand Cholewka, who takes over the Presidency of the Polish Association. Anna Jung has kindly agreed to remain on the EAT Board as our Vice-President.

Our journal, Thermology International, continues to attract some important articles in thermology, and remains free to all EAT members.

The EAT Board met in Zakopane in April, and then again at NPL in July. I also met with the NPL Events team on several occasions to assist in the planning of the XIV Congress. The EAT General Assembly took place at NPL at the conclusion of the XIV Congress. There were some very helpful discussions at this meeting on the future direction of the EAT, and the requirements of members.

The EAT also sent a survey after the XIV Congress to all delegates who had attended the meeting, and other members of the Association. One of the key findings from the survey was that members wanted the EAT to have a stronger online presence, with an up-to-date website that can be viewed on all browsers and devices. The Board has listened to these views, and we hope you like the result! The revised website will be expanded gradually over time, but now provides a strong and versatile platform for publicising the activities of the EAT. I am interested to hear your views on any further content you would like to see included online.

You can also now interact with the EAT via Twitter, and a new dedicated e-mail address: just click on the links at the foot of each web page.

I would like to place on record my thanks to all my colleagues on the EAT Board for their hard work and support during 2018. A big thank you also to all the EAT members, Congress delegates and students who made our activities during 2018 such a success.

Our focus now turns to 2019, with our next thermology meeting in Zakopane in April, and a decision due in the next few months on the venue for the XV Congress of the EAT in 2021.

Happy New Year, and I look forward to seeing you all during 2019.