More shenanigans at the Medical Commission

It’s surely been a long long time since taking pen (read “keyboard”) in hand (read “hands”) but the time has come to once again howl at the moon. Ironic that it is on the first day of my new home Grand Prix!

I’ve just been made aware, by trusted and reliable internal sources, that the president of the FIA Medical Commission, my old friend Gérard Saillant, is in the process of removing Professor Hugh Scully from his seat on the Commission. This is most troubling on several fronts.

Let me first explain, to those of you who don’t know Prof Scully, just exactly who he is, and why this is important.

Hugh is a cardiac surgeon, one of the best, and is a past president of the Canadian Medical Association. He is also one of Sid’s greatest friends and allies, since the beginning. Their shared academic background and passion for motorsport would have predicted this, but at a time when it was easier and safer to oppose and obstruct, Hugh instead joined the train and helped make the changes we all know so well. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that without Hugh’s support and wisdom, Sid’s road would have been even more difficult than it was. Hugh also introduced Sid to his beloved wife Susan.

Professor Scully remained loyal to Sid, and continued active participation in the FIA even after Sid’s retirement. This was driven by both his fervent desire to continue Sid’s legacy, as well as his absolute commitment to the greater goal – improved medical structures and care for participants in racing. I should also add that his continued participation came at great personal cost.

Hugh is a founding member of the International Council of Motorsport Sciences. This is a fantastically dynamic organisation, largely based in North America, and which hosts what is universally felt to be the most important annual motorsport medicine meeting in the world. In fact it has been a continuing source of embarrassment to many in the FIA that the FIA’s OWN meeting is laughably trivial compared to the ICMS. Several attempts at organising joint meetings were dashed by the FIA’s lack of competence and honesty.

The ostensible reason for the removal of Hugh from the Medical Commission is his age. Scully is 75. What is interesting is that the internal rules and regulations of the Medical Commission make no mention of an age limit to membership. In fact, unlike any structured body with important regulatory functions, the FIA Medical Commission HAS NO INTERNAL RULES AND REGULATIONS AT ALL! More on this in a bit.

I should point out that the Saillant himself is within striking distance of 75 (if not beyond). I’m certain that if Todt indeed runs and wins the FIA presidency again, Saillant will not use the age criteria to remove himself in favour of a younger person. In fact, Jean-Jacques Issermann, who is well into his nineties, still sits on the Commission.

It is troubling, and not coincidental, that Hugh is the last Sid holdout on the Commission. It’s funny (but not at all surprising, given the lack of competence at this level), but the FIA completely forgot to neutralise my password access to the private area of their website. This gave me a window, for some time after my removal, into the minutes of the Medical Commission. It was apparent that Prof Scully was a constant thorn in the side of the French hierarchy, always insisting on intellectual, scientific, and medical rigour in all aspects considered by the Commission. It is obvious, and very sad, that this is just the latest expression of Todt and Saillant’s desire to expunge all traces of Sid and his approach from the ranks of official motorsport medicine.

I’d also add that the FIA stopped uploading minutes to the website some years ago – perfectly consistent with their desire for opacity.

Another most troubling aspect of this sordid and clearly political move is that Hugh is one of the few high-level motorsport doctors who, despite his “age”, continues to push ahead the agenda of progress. It is obvious to any who are interested that for at least 5 years all notion of forward movement on the medical side of our sport has come to a grinding halt. This complacency, where the “perqs” of membership outweigh the raison d’être of the Commission, will continue unabated. Expect more removals of progressive elements, and their replacement by people who are valued more for their loyalty than for their competency.

Which brings to mind the lack of internal regulations of the Medical Commission itself.

Some years ago Saillant was an “advisor” to Max Mosley. Max was interested in streamlining and improving the functioning of all the FIA commissions, and asked Saillant to advise on the medical side of things. This was an appointment which Max later bitterly regretted, and was based on a misplaced sense of personal indebtedness . . . but I digress.

I suggested to Gérard that the Medical Commission needed a structure and some regulations regarding its function. Originally created to give an official imprimatur to Sid’s agenda, it had failed to evolve into a structure that would drive ahead progress on our side of things.

I pointed out that the members of the commission were chosen based on no criteria other than personal affinity with Sid (with perhaps an occasional political constraint added in). And I suggested that we use the model of the UN Security Council,in the interest of combining some notion of stability with a structural mechanism for changes. I suggested that the Commission have several permanent members, made up of motorsport powerhouse nations. This could be defined in several ways – e.g. countries that had hosted F1, world rally, and/or endurance events in 80% of the years the respective championships existed. In addition, a rotating roster of “lesser” countries would be brought in, in order to provide new ideas, dynamism, and truly global representation. Obviously it was not in the interest of entrenched powers to institute such a reform…

I only say this to highlight that there are not just personal, but structural reasons for the complete lack of progress on the medical front. And to give me a chance to once again return to some projects that I think would be extremely important for the future of medical and rescue coverage of racing events:

  • Continued updating of the motorsport medicine manual, and creation of a real, modular motorsport medicine course
  • Creation of a system for accreditation of motorsport medical and rescue personnel, with a pathway for acquiring and documenting competencies and experience
  • Convening of a “Cockpit Out” conference, to define current best practice in creating the safest most ergonomically efficient driver environment for each type of racing, as well as regulatory reform making the cockpit the START of all technical regs for all series, around which cars would be built.
  • Convening a conference to reconsider the structure of medical and extrication teams in the various levels and types of competition. The role of the circuit medical centre should also be re-analysed in light of progress in management of severe trauma.
  • Sharing of the FIA resources and database for helmets with other organisations both sport and leisure (skiing, bicycling, etc) as well as professional (construction, etc).

I’m going to finish with a heartfelt thank you to Hugh Scully – for being a friend, and for fighting the good fight. It’s been an honour.



27 thoughts on “More shenanigans at the Medical Commission

  1. Gary,

    It takes time for the wheels of justice to go full circle and eventually good comes and the truth comes to light.

    I really do hope that you are back in the position that you deserve to be in, with the FIA Medical Commission.

    Mark H.

    • Hi Mark! So nice to hear from you. I believe the FIA presidency is up for renewal this year and if I understand correctly, Jean Todt won’t be standing again. I have heard that Graham Stoker and Mohammed bin Sulayem have both expressed interest. I think either of these gents would make a superb FIA president over the next crucial years. I am, of course, particularly fond of Mohammed, for a number of reasons, including his dynamism, track record, and his representation of a region that is slowly becoming a center of innovation.

      As for any official role in motorsport, I seriously doubt that that is something that could happen. My radioactive half life (to use a physics analogy) is quite long, and I’ve no doubt burned enough bridges to significantly hinder any utility I might bring to the table. Would I take an official role if offered? On the one hand, my love for the sport has not faded; on the other my life has moved on since leaving the sport in 2012. I think it would depend on WHAT, WITH WHOM, and HOW my role would be envisaged.

      That said,I’m happy to say that the Medical Commisision, with Dr. Dino Altmann as president, is being led by a superb doctor, person, and motorsport devotee. I’m completely confident that with Dino at the tiller, the MC, once freed of the chokehold of the past years under Todt’s administration, will once again begin to progress in the best tradition of Sid Watkins et al.

      • Gary, thanks for the reply.

        I am reminded of Sir Jackie Stewart, who campaigned tirelessly for better safety, BUT at the time, was NOT made welcome for his views.

        DON’T forget that motorsport still needs that type of character, in the spirit of Jackie, just like you, THOSE who speak out when it is IMPORTANT to do so.

        RE: “As for any official role in motorsport, I seriously doubt that that is something that could happen.”

        Don’t be surprised, when you are recalled… as I previously wrote, “It takes time for the wheels of justice to go full circle and eventually good comes and the truth comes to light.”

  2. Gary Hartstein, are you going to refund the Schumacher’s family with all the money you gained from commenting on his accident (as it turns out you hate the guy, it’s fair to think your articles were not for ‘kind’ purpose) ?

    • 1) if I earned even one dollar from my posts, I’d do the right thing and use it to fund your oh-so-necessary psychiatric care. Rarely have I had the honour to read anything as idiotic as your comment. Even thought the year is only 19 days old, you’re a strong contender for the Biggest Moron of the Year award.
      2) I’m impressed that you can determine who I hate and don’t hate, and that your perceptive abilities even extend to understanding my motives in writing.
      3) A small piece of advice – keep your “thoughts” to yourself and refrain, in the future, from polluting my laptop with your drivel.

    • Hi Chris. Besides the aesthetic issues, I think that as is usually the case, Charlie and the relevant bodies have done their homework in a professional manner and that the device is almost certain to provide the expected protection in the situations for which it is designed.

      As for unintended consequences, a good number of these would appear to have been addressed (including added difficulty with extrication, etc). Unfortunately (or fortunately), I think we’ll have to wait and see how things work out.

  3. Doctor Hartstein, is your Twitter account still yours? I used to read it a few years ago and now it seems to have changed somehow. Not (only) that you have Heather Heyer for profile picture but as a whole – the style and the themes it is taking up. Thanks if you answer my question.

    • My twitter account is indeed still mine. In fact, I haven’t looked at my timeline in a few weeks – too busy at work, keeping up with the tornado of corruption, treason and incompetence at the “helm” of my country’s government, and various other activities. Heather is still my profile picture because I dont want her forgotten. If I DO change it in the future, trust me, I will not forget her, what was done to her, and by whom.

      At a time when the foundational principles of my country are under constant attack, and are showing frightening signs of erosion, motorsport just seems to be a less important outlet for my energy than it used to be. The dread that this evolution raises in me is largely channeled into anger at the ignorant mendacious rapist masquerading as president.

      Hope this answers your question.

    • Hey Neil thanks for writing.

      I dont think Max was “chased off”, but rather decided for a number of reasons to step down. I’m rather confident that given how things turned out he harbours no small measure of regret at his decision. That said, he continues to be a significant force for change in the motoring world in general.

      I fully agree about Ari not winning. I think he’d have made a superb FIA president. But given the corruption and Machiavellian ruthlessness he was up against, he never really had a chance…

    • I was quite sceptical for a while about it, based on nothing more than in-car videos of drivers making fine adjustments to steering-wheel dials and buttons. But ultimately if Renault are satisfied (he is blindingly fast on his day) then I think some excellent surgery, a huge amount of work re-habbing, lots of time and talent all come together to make this a fantastic come-back story. Lets hope they give him a good car and he shows us what he can do!

  4. Hello Dr. Hartstein, I am a 2nd year medical student from the US and aside from medicine, motorsport has grown to be my other passion in life. Any insight as to how I could possibly combine these two, from the perspective of a well accomplished medical professional? There seems to be lots opportunity to improve the management side of things, based on this piece!

    • Hi Evan! Check out my post “For all future F1 docs”. I think it was posted in May 2015. Come back to me if you’ve still got unanswered questions, I’d be happy to answer. Enjoy your studies, relish them, sweat the details . . . it’ll pay off later. You’ll be shocked to know we all get seriously nostalgic about our med student days.

  5. When you spend so much of your time working with an organization and a person (Sid) that is so competent, it almost hurts to watch it break down after their departure. You hope that they were able to establish a way of doing things that will continue, but when others step in with no care for what has been accomplished, it seems like it’s all just washed away.

    Thanks for sharing. Best to you in your future.

      • Hello dr. Hartstein, it is good to have you back writing about motorsports. Thankful to see you shining some light about structural changes to the sports administration behind the spot lights. Would you care to send me an e-mail to have a conversation some time about some motorsports related topics such as the redressing of this Commission, Jules Bianchi and Michael Schumacher? Hope to hear from you soon, and also I wish you a great new year.

        Best regards,

        Joshua Jacobs

      • Hi Joshua. Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2018 also! I think I’ll take a pass on the email and discussion. Pretty sure everything that needs to be said has been said in one way or another. But thanks for asking!

  6. Pingback: F1 Fanatic round-up: Hulkenberg predicts F1 will drop Halo

  7. Thanks for posting this, Gary. It’s coming even more and more like a boy’s own club. If you’re not friends of the “leader”, you’re not allowed to play. Extremely concerning and I dread to think what may happen in the future.

    • To be honest, I don’t care about the sketchy bastards – I’m far enough away from it now to only have one agenda: I loathe incompetence, and these clowns eat drink and breathe incompetence.

      • There’s only 1 thing worse than incompetence and that’s realising it but bullshitting on nonetheless. Those incompetent who don’t realise it are a result of bad or non-caring management with a greedy/selfish agenda, usually of the former type.

Your turn to speak - write here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s