Editorial: Why do we still need more scientific congresses?

Editorial: Why do we still need more scientific congresses?

  • Issue 76

Gabriel M. Gurman, MD, Chief editor


I just came back home from the last Focus meeting, in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. I spent two full days at the congress, moving from the lecture halls to the speakers’ room, meeting old friends and contributors to our Newsletter and making new ones.

I was impressed by the scientific atmosphere, by the participation of the audience in the discussions, but mainly by the fact that a rather narrow topic, the haematological problems for the anaesthesiologist in the perioperative setting, attracted more than 300 participants, in a season that does not offer any touristic attraction.

Nobody questions the compulsory need for an annual, comprehensive scientific congress, such as Euroanaesthesia. The European Society of Anaesthesiologists (ESA) is a continental professional and scientific organization, which includes all the National Societies and deals with the daily aspects of our profession, trying to improve the anaesthesiologist’s everyday activity and image, to encourage research, and to offer each member a possibility to check his/her own professional knowledge by organizing the European Diploma examination.

It is just natural to have, once a year, a large scientific gathering with a program that covers all the domains of our profession, presents refresher courses, workshops, debates, and frontal lectures. Since its birth, ESA has successfully organized the summer Euroanaesthesia, which has already become a tradition and shows up on the agenda of more than six thousand anaesthesiologists all over the continent.

But the autumn meetings are a rather recent initiative of ESA. It started only in 2010 and, in comparison to the large audience during the summer gatherings, it brings together a rather limited number of participants (see table).


Table. Venues and number of participants at the previous Focus meetings.

So the question that must be asked is: What is the scientific and organizational value of such a meeting? I would start with the end and declare that from my own point of view, the autumn Focus meeting it is not only a positive thing, but also a must.

Once upon a time, the scientific programs of our professional meetings, either national or international, tried to cover (in the same time) most (if not all) the theoretical and practical topics of our profession. This task was not at all difficult to accomplish. Fifty or sixty years ago, Anaesthesiology was a rather narrow profession, a new one on the map of medical specialties, dealing mostly with the intraoperative problems, mainly pharmacology, manual skills, and techniques, and not too much equipment.

Then, the meetings organized by the professional and scientific leadership of our specialty could easily fulfil the aim of keeping the participants updated in most of the topics which Anaesthesiology dealt with.

Since then things have changed dramatically. From a specialty known as restricted to only the surgical patient in the operating room, Anaesthesiology became a profession that deals with a multitude of aspects, covering the pre-, intra-, and post-operative problems of the patient, a situation that justified the motto of one of the previous European congresses, organized some 25 years ago: “a multifaceted profession”.

Today our profession is no longer limited to the operating room.

I know that I would not bring to our readers anything new, but one has to remind from time to time that today we are dealing with critical care, acute and chronic pain management, outpatient anaesthesia clinics, resuscitation, trauma, and of course education, administration, and last but not least, research.

Today more than one third of our daily activity takes place outside the operating room and uses manpower accordingly.

The consequences are clear. Enjoying larger professional borders and enlarging the list of domains of interest and activity, Anaesthesiology needs depth, too. This is exactly the main task of the autumn Focus meeting. As per its name, the aim of this kind of convention is to select a topic and discuss it in depth, touching its various aspects, both theoretical and practical, by inviting experts in the field and asking them to bring to the audience their own knowledge and experience.

A short glance on the topics already discussed in the framework of the previous Focus meetings would show how variate and also important they are: regional anaesthesia, the ageing patient, the cardiac patient, the paediatric patient, etc.

Another important aspect of organizing an annual Focus meeting is the venue selection. Most of the places chosen to host the autumn meetings are not on the list of cities where the summer Euroanaesthesias are held. This decision offered an opportunity for rather small National Societies to become partners in organizing an important scientific meeting, under the auspices of ESA. The Focus meeting usually brings together native anaesthesiologists with guests from other parts of the continent, and also gives a chance to local specialists to become speakers and take part in the scientific program.

I am not aware of any European medical society that organizes on an annual basis scientific events focused on specific, restricted fields of activity. If this is true, it does not have to surprise anybody. As far as I know anaesthesiologists have been the first ones to create a world scientific and professional body, the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists, somewhere in the middle of the last century. We have been the only European profession which had for many years its own Academy, a scientific body dealing with various topics of research in our specialty and later on incorporated in ESA. We also have been the first one who created, under the leadership of ESA, the system of a European diploma examination.

So in spite of being, in comparison to many other medical professions, a young specialty, we took the initiative in many directions, and this fact confers to us a distinguished place on the list of the most advanced societies in Europe.

The Focus meetings are another original initiative. They proved to be efficient and helpful for many of our colleagues and peers. It gives an additional chance to meet old friends and to make new ones. It improves exposure to the last data, coming from studies done in the domain that is the target of each autumn meeting. It helps us see things which we used to know, but from a different angle.

As Einstein said once: Any fool can know. The point is to understand.

This is the main aim of scientific gatherings such as the Focus meetings and this is the reason why I, personally, am confident that the next autumn meetings would be attended by more and more colleagues, from every corner of the continent