One of the core elements of post graduate medical education is the meeting, seminar or symposium. Meetings, where we get together with colleagues, present data and share experiences. These vary between local regional or large international meetings. Clearly, many have perceived great advantage in this kind of collective education process. There is no doubt that there are major benefits from receiving information delivered by the experts and the to and fro discussion which occurs from directly meeting with our colleagues.
For some time we have begun to question whether this traditional form of education can survive some of the pressures now being applied, largely financial and now being threatened by travel restrictions from the novel Coronavirus. In the DeBakey CV education team our growing philosophy is that one does not need to travel simply to be placed in a seat and be given a lecture. A lecture which can be delivered remotely through a variety of electronic media. Rather the expense of travel can be justified when one learns a technical skill or where the educator maximizes the amount of direct interaction with the faculty.
We are all highly aware of the increasing financial challenges which limit participation, particularly expensive international travel. Medical device companies can no longer fund many of the international flights which have in the past brought attendees to the larger meetings. Hospitals and universities increasingly are questioning how funds are being used, the real educational value in funding such trips and concerns regarding conflicts of interest.
So these are the background pressure which we have all experienced. Now, along comes the Corona Virus.
While we have all watched the emergence of this disease in Wuhan then spreading in China, we in the West were minimally affected or infected! However, we all have colleagues in China and there are some major cardiovascular meetings in China. In addition many of our industry partners have manufacturing plants, distributors and customers, all of which are being disrupted. We in the USA can no longer travel to China for other than essential trips. Travelers from China may be quarintined on arrival in the United States. Bottom line this will drastically curb any educational interaction with China and increasingly Japan and South Korea.
Well, what about Europe? I recently went to Rome to watch an international rugby game. Arrived on a Friday morning to learn of 3 cases in Northern Italy, none in Rome. I attended the match in Rome’s Olympic stadium along with another 53,000 friends. After 3 days in Rome the number of cases sky rocketed to close to 200, and one case in Rome! Italy was designated a Level 2 risk country by the CDC and on the morning off my return to work, our hospital banned all professional travel to Italy, strongly discouraged personal travel and thought since I was in a stadium I should not come to the hospital. Hence my time to contemplate the potential impact.
Help, I am running a symposium for the next 2 days, how can I possibly participate? Also, recently we had planned 4 Singapore surgeons to visit and watch our colorectal group perform robotic surgery. Nope, can’t come to the hospital. Charing Cross meeting lost over 100 Chinese vascular surgeon attendees. This is just the beginning!!
In both of our Methodist situations, the educational experience was salvaged using remote surgical viewing and remote delivery of lectures. This we believed and now believe even more strongly, is the future delivery platform. Building these capabilities is critical for future medical education. The Coronavirus epidemic will accelerate this direction massively.