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Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer

An interview with Neuro-oncology Research Fellow, Giulio Anichini

by Hugh Adams

At the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at Imperial College London researchers are pioneering new approaches that are hoped will make surgery as safe as possible, whilst removing as much tumour as possible.

Neuro-oncology Research Fellow Giulio Anichini, for whom this is a PhD project he is working on alongside Consultant Neurosurgeon Mr Kevin O’Neill, who leads the Centre, has recently passed the FCRS exam to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.

We caught up with Giulio to find out what that means.

He said: “The FRCS exam is the exam to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. It is the final training exam for all surgery trainees in the country for all surgical specialties: general surgery, thoracic, neurosurgery, plastics, etc. Each specialty has its own subspecialty.

“For me, it was not technically required as I am already post Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) and on the General Medical Council (GMC) specialty registry, so I could theoretically work already as a neurosurgery consultant. I have qualified in Italy back in 2013, so that’s my first neurosurgical qualification. I have also passed the European board examination, the Fellow of the European Board of Neurological Surgery (FEBNS), in 2018, so that’s my second neurosurgical qualification.

“With that said, the FRCS is a title that is very highly considered both in the UK and abroad. It is quite tricky to get a consultant job in this country without it. The level of difficulty of the exam is something that I have rarely experienced before. It is divided in two subsections, a written and an oral one. As difficult as the written part can be (and it is), the oral part is usually the most challenging. The candidate gets scrutinised by a panel of very senior neurosurgeons from all over the country. There are two subsections: on day one we discuss six clinical cases (four short cases and two long cases) - they can cover the whole spectrum of neurosurgery; on day two there are three stations to discuss specific aspects of neurosurgical care (18 scenarios overall).”

Although not specifically relevant to Giulio’s research, which is funded by Brain Tumour Research, this exam is crucial for him to progress his career in the UK and therefore being able to carry on his research.

Giulio explains: “It has taken me a few years to pass this exam, which is quite common being a really challenging exam. In terms of my future career, it will allow me to be competitive in the UK job market in terms of CV, knowledge and experience, mostly for neurosurgery consultant jobs, but not only. Most of my surgical work will be based on tumours, as my main subspecialties are exactly neuro-oncology and skull base (the latter being focused a lot on tumours too), and I hope to get a substantive post on these two subspecialties in the future.”

And finally, we asked Giulio about his hopes for the future and the advancements he hope to see in the next decade:

“In regards to the advancements I hope to see in the next decade, I would say that the main priority is to get more radical surgical resection and minimise the occurrence of post-operative impairment. We essentially want to see our patients with the best possible neurological conditions… but with the whole tumour out of their brain! This is what our research is mostly focused on.”

Our congratulations go to Giulio on passing this exam and we wish him the best for his research.

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