I appreciate a variety of educational avenues.
By R. Doyle Stulting, MD, PhD
Thirty years ago, the average ophthalmologist in the United States probably attended the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and occasionally read a journal. The United States was clearly the leader in medical technology; the Internet did not exist; access to video recordings was limited; and few “throw-away” publications were published.
VARIETY OF AVENUES
Today, there is a vast array of educational opportunities, including popular offerings like the one you are reading, in addition to classic, peer-reviewed journals and annual meetings of major US professional organizations. International meetings have become more attractive, as the US regulatory environment drives innovative product development outside of the country. The Internet has put information at our fingertips that once required access to a university library. Advances in electronic devices have allowed us to review a virtually unlimited amount of written material, images, and videos at a time and location of our choice. Finally, our learning experience is continually changing as demographic shifts occur, with some suggesting that the upcoming generation will prefer to learn at home via electronic communications rather than attend meetings.
As a baby boomer adapting to this new environment, I find myself learning from a variety of sources. International meetings are attractive, because they expose me to innovative ideas, the outcomes of clinical trials that cannot be performed in the United States, and conversations with physicians who are 10 years ahead of us in terms of the availability of new technology. The annual meeting of the European Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgeons and the Australasian Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons are two of my favorites. In the United States, I find the annual American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery meeting most informative, because it focuses on my areas of interest, attracts international ophthalmologists, and encourages the presentation of novel ideas.
My laptop is central to my current educational process. Push technology gives me access to papers before they appear in print. I can even attend meetings in cyberspace that I did not attend in person, listen to a paper that I missed when it was presented at a national meeting, and hear about a clinical study from the European Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgeons meeting that cannot be performed in the United States because of regulatory hurdles.
One of the increasingly attractive new ways of learning for me are the 1-minute learning experiences that come to my iPhone (Apple, Inc.) via push technology—the brief video from the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery or other societies that appears in my inbox. I believe these preselected, tightly edited learning opportunities are the wave of the future. The obvious key to their success is the knowledge and lack of bias of the entity that selects and publishes these offerings.
R. Doyle Stulting, MD, PhD, is the director of the Stulting Research Center at the Woolfson Eye Institute in Atlanta. Dr. Stulting may be reached at (770) 255-3330; firstname.lastname@example.org.
I Favor Intimate, Innovative Symposia
By george o. waring IV, MD
Like all things ophthalmic, meetings have changed significantly over the years. I remember my first experiences as a young child, being led toward the front row of the early refractive surgery meetings by my father. I was humbled and awed by the innovative spirit of the pioneers that have mentored many of us. Since that time, many of the large international meetings have stifled their innovative spirit in order to comply with continuing medical education regulations.
In recent years, new organizations have been founded in that spirit of innovation, and they have spawned an era of small symposia focused on the latest technology. Although I may choose to attend a meeting based on its individual merit and focus, I have come to value these more intimate meetings the most. The American-European Congress of Ophthalmic Surgery has three meetings a year, with a concentration on advances in ophthalmic surgery. The International Congress on Surface Ablation, Femto-Lasers, & Cross-Linking is a joint congress following the summer American-European Congress of Ophthalmic Surgery meeting, and it has an obvious focus on the eponymous disciplines but specifically on the latest research and developments. Similarly, the Wavefront & Presbyopic Refractive Corrections Congress embodies these avant-garde, cutting-edge concepts but from an optical science standpoint. I find this to be a valuable meeting with top-level thinkers and enjoy the balance it provides to the more clinically oriented meetings.
I am a devout supporter of large international congresses and consider these to be the “gold standard” meetings. More and more, though, I have come to value the more innovative and less regulated atmosphere that the smaller symposia provide. They remind me of my early experiences at the pioneering meetings that discussed new concepts and new developments in a less formal setting.
George O. Waring IV, MD, is the director of refractive surgery and an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Storm Eye Institute, Medical University of South Carolina. He is also the medical director of the Magill Vision Center in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Dr. Waring may be reached at email@example.com.