Welcome! It is always a pleasure to greet readers and share insights of the past year in this Foreword. Alas, this will be the last time I get the honour of doing this, as 2022 encompasses my final mandate and last six months as Chair of the Board of Governors in this remarkable institution after 14 years of service. So, this is a special Foreword – one where I will reflect on 2021 on the governance level and indulge in some reminiscence.
To begin, what has 2021 brought the institute? As for most people, a year of COVID-19 2.0 meant another long period of fewer face-to-face encounters – between staff, for students and professors and for our partnerships – and I think we all suffered under this pressure. Nonetheless, projects moved ahead and all-in-all it has turned out to be a positive year of strengthening the organisation and continuing our pursuit of scientific excellence and relevance in the field of “Global Science for Health Worldwide”, in line with the ambitions of our policy plan. The fruits of this can be found in the pages to come.
In terms of organisational fitness, a swathe of new appointments on different management levels have meant that the necessary fortification of our team took place. In terms of the strength of our physical infrastructure, with new laboratories needing to be housed, we also started working on an ‘out of the box’ ‘Masterplan’ project, with possible new locations coming onto the horizon for 2022.
On the governance front, the new structure, which started in 2018, continued to prove its worth. The General Council is now in full swing and has worked well in keeping ITM faithful to its vision, mission and values. This year, we ran a mandated structural evaluation of the Board. I’m pleased to say this went well. With this, the Board of Governors proved itself as an independent decision-making body providing valuable strategic direction through another pandemic riddled year. My thanks go to everyone involved in these two bodies, for your expertise, openness and commitment in 2021.
On this note, along with my departure, 2021 saw the ending of other Board mandates. This includes Patricia Lanssiers and Dirk Moens, to whom I would like to extend my sincere gratitude for their excellent and extremely professional contributions. In turn, a call for new Board Member applications closed at the end of January 2022 with the General Council set to finalise the appointments on 30 May.
In my own case, it is with sadness that I will leave this position as I must admit I have become somewhat besotted with ITM – such a wonderfully fascinating place with unique people that will always remain in my heart.
Over the 14 years that I have had the great honour to be the Chair of the Board, I have seen the institute define and deliver on its strategy towards being a science-driven organisation and have worked together with many amazingly driven people – inside and outside the institute – to have this embedded in its governance and management structure. As is the case today, ensuring the institute evolves and thrives in tumultuous times has been a consistent theme that has required persistence and unwavering commitment.
So, it is my turn to hand over the governance of ITM’s next evolutions. Despite my heavy heart, I am pleased that a fresh wind, in the form of a new Chair, will begin this year and I am curiously excited to see who that will be. I wish the new Board well in facing the very real challenges of our time in creating a healthier world on a global scale – I’m sure the strength of the institute will bode them very well. With this, I would like to take the opportunity to thank: the entire Board for the wonderful and inspiring collaboration, for their dedication, professionalism, friendship and wisdom, the members of the General Council, and in particular the representatives of the low- and middle-income countries, and all those who, due to their daily work, research and commitment, make and shape ITM.
All said and done, this is only an ‘au revoir’ as I stay committed to a smooth transition (and am forever enamored with ITM) and will remain available to provide help whenever and wherever I can.
Au revoir, tot ziens, until we meet again!
Governor of the Province of Antwerp
Chair of the Board of Governors of ITM