Vittoria Bellato interviews Jasper Stijns about his experience of EBSQ examinations.

ZG GvRESCP is focusing this month on the importance of European Board of Surgical Qualification (EBSQ) in Coloproctology. The EBSQ examination is the certifying examination leading to the Diploma of EBSQ (Coloproctology) of the European Union of Medical Specialists. This is the only form of certification in the speciality of coloproctology within Europe and candidates who successfully pass the examination are awarded the title 'Fellow of the European Board of Coloproctology'. The ultimate aim is assuring standards in the interest of patient safety and wellbeing.

In this interview, Jasper Stijns speaks to Vittoria Bellato about his experience.

Vittoria Bellato (VB): The first question is about your training path, the first steps are frequently difficult and one can feel lost. Can you recount yours?

Jasper Stijns (JS): Yes I can, very lively. The first years of my residency were not that special. From early on I had a preference for abdominal surgery, but in Belgium we still have a general surgical training, so I had to rotate on other disciplines as well. It wasn’t until my fourth (of six) year in residency that I really became passionate about colorectal surgery. Having the right mentor at the time made my career as it is right now. I was lucky to have someone who gave me surgical freedom, stimulated me in doing research and made me go to colorectal societies meetings (ASCRS and ESCP). From that time on I became really passionate about coloproctology.

VB: In which part of your career did you sit the EBSQ exam?

JS: As soon as I met the eligibility criteria, which was after my first year of colorectal fellowship in Leuven (2019).

VB: Why did you decide to take it?

JS: In Belgium, there is no specific exam to become a board certified coloproctologist. Before I took the exam, only four surgeons in Belgium were ESBQ-c certified. Four more have taken and passed the exam since 2019. Most colorectal procedures are still being performed by general surgeons in our country. Although the quality of colorectal surgery in Belgium is very high, I’m convinced that patients will benefit even more in the future if we can make this a dedicated subspecialty in our country. It’s not just about taking an exam, it’s the dedication and passion about coloproctology that the exam represents. Also being involved in the society (Y-ESCP, EduCom) made me realise the added value of being ESBQ certified.

VB: How long did it take you to prepare for the exam?

JS: It’s difficult to put a time frame on it. When you are a colorectal surgeon or fellow in daily practice, if you go to colorectal conferences and read about your specialty, you should be able to pass the exam. I think I actually studied for a few days prior to the exam (yes I locked myself in the hotel room in Vienna the day before!). Apart from that I watched a lot from previous conferences on the resource library.

VB: Did completing the exam give you any professional benefit?

JS: I’m not sure. As I said, very few surgeons took the exam in Belgium so I don’t think it was a big factor when applying for a consultant job (but you should ask the ones who hired me). I do think it played a role in getting the JSCP travelling fellowship, which was an experience of a lifetime. What I am certain about is the day I have to choose another colleague, there will be extra points awarded for applicants who took the exam. 

VB: Any tips for those who want to take the exam soon?

JS: Just go for it! Study the parts you don’t know that well or you don’t see often in your practice. Go to ESCP annual conference, get a Twitter account and follow the societies, journals and prominent colorectal surgeons (it’s an easy way to be up to date), and use ESCP’s Resource Library to watch keynote lectures, core subject updates, debates, guidelines etc. When taking the exam, just pretend you’re discussing cases with your colleague, the examiners want you to pass.

VB: Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your story with us.