Message from the President

Dear ISCoS family

I write to you as your new President as I reflect on 2020 – what a year! As we move towards the end of 2020, no-one (certainly not your new President) could have envisaged how this year would change our world forever. Pre-Covid normal is no longer normal – instead we have Covid Normal and hopefully, in due course, the ‘new normal’, that is the post-Covid normal. I have masks in my bag, I use telehealth systems all the time and hand cleanser everywhere, even at my front door at home.

So it was that, rather than stand on the stage in Yokohama with our out-going President, Harvinder Chhabra, I was handed my Presidential medal virtually (with a little bit of help from Photoshop and Heather Pownall from our PCO, Association Services at BCD) at our first ever fully virtual annual scientific meeting. By April 2020, it became very clear that no-one would be flying anywhere and our options were to cancel completely or try something completely different.  As you all know, we chose the second option. Over 600 people ‘attended’ the meeting and the scientific content was outstanding. It may surprise some of you that we were not sure how and if it would work and whether we would have less or more participants.  What became obvious was that many people who would usually not attend because of the cost (not just of registration, but transport, accommodation, meals, etc) would be able to attend virtually.  The downside, of course, was the difficulty with social interactions, the lounge idea which wasn’t very effective in my opinion and the lack of chat sessions over a coffee. To me, however, as the incoming ISCoS President, I really appreciated that the format of our meeting allowed our society to be much more inclusive – more nurses and more participants from a wide variety of allied health professions – with ‘attendees’ from over 50 countries. We plan that the 2021 meeting will take place in Vancouver as a ‘hybrid’ meeting with the ISCoS Scientific Committee and the local Canadian committee working hard with our Professional Conference Organisation (PCO), led by Susan Hayden to create another wonderful meeting even if Covid19 remains a problem.

When I first joined ISCoS in 1986 (it was IMSoP then), it was a bit of a boys’ club and a doctors’ club.  My first conference was in Perth in 1988 and most of the women in attendance were female partners not participants. The ISCoS we now have is a very different organisation. A large number of people who are not doctors but represent all the health professions and consumers as well. We have special interest groups that meet their needs for specific education and a consumer SIG is happening too. The Board and Executive have recognised the need for a much more transparent and inclusive structure and I am proud and truly honoured to have been elected as the first woman to be the President in ISCoS’  60 year history. As well, for the first time ever, the key executive positions are held by women with Ellen-Merete Hagen as Hon. Treasurer and Susie Charlifue as Hon. Secretary. Thankfully we have Harvinder Chhabra on the Exec as well. Next year, we will vote for the President-elect who will take over from me in 2022.

In the meantime, as I write this, ISCoS is getting ready to farewell to both the Editor of Spinal Cord, Professor Lisa Harvey, and the Editor ofSpinal Cord Series & Cases, Dr Marcalee Alexander. We will find ways to continue to acknowledge their amazing  work over the past four years as we could not do so at the 59th ASM.  As well as being in the midst of appointing a new Editor-in-Chief to manage both of our journals, we are also renewing our contract with our publisher, Springer Nature, and setting in place a small change to our  PCO arrangements (the people we deal with will remain the same, but the email and web addresses will change). Whatever happens, ISCoS remains an important international and impartial, inclusive and increasingly transparent organisation – much more like a family and close friends than just a large medical society led by people we don’t know. We are committed to the best care for people living with spinal cord injuries and disorders from onset and throughout their lives and we do this by working in our teams, promoting education, advocacy, advice and care at our local locations, at the UN and WHO and everywhere in between.

 Please feel free to email me with your comments and questions at any time.  I even have created a special email address so my ISCoS emails don’t get caught up in my work e-mailbox: You can expect more news from the rest of Executive and the Board as well as from me, as we move into 2021. In the meantime dear friends, please enjoy the upcoming Festive season, whatever you celebrate and be safe, healthy and happy.


A/Prof Ruth Marshall MBBS, DPRM, FAFRM (RACP)

President, International Spinal Cord Society

Where to find us

National Spinal Injuries Centre,
Stoke Mandeville Hospital,
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire,
HP21 8AL, United Kingdom

How to contact us

Tel: +44 1296 315 866


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