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Take your time and take it in

Conferences and scenery can fly by so fast when you’re not prepared

Leigh Spielberg

Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I rented a cherry red Ducati motorcycle to explore Barcelona during the hours when I’m not attending sessions at EURETINA. But I wouldn’t recommend you do the same. I once took a wrong turn and ended up on the highway to Girona, at night, in the drizzling rain. In my mind, I mistook “Girona” for a combination of “Genoa” and “Verona,” and thought to myself, “Goodness, I’m on the road to Italy!” I composed myself and took the next exit and sought the security of Barcelona.

So, wrong turns aside, why wouldn’t I recommend you hop on a two-wheeler? Because on a motorcycle, everything flies by so quickly – you might see everything in the city, you can’t really take anything in. You can’t absorb it.

That is, unless you plan your visit, map in hand, the same way we plan our conference visits, EURETINA app in hand. Just like the city of Barcelona, the EURETINA conference is too big to take it all in at high speed unplanned, but we select that which we want to see, hear, learn, take in, enjoy.

We attend some presentations because we want to learn a specific diagnostic or surgical technique. A new ILM flap technique? No problem. Sometimes all it takes is a reassurance that it’s not quite as difficult as one might think.

There are other presentations, like Dr Micol Alkabes’ talk on macular buckling in high myopia, that we attend for the same reason we might watch an acrobat in Cirque du Soleil: to be impressed by the skills of the performer, and to be slightly afraid of what might happen if it were to go wrong. And although I watched our society’s current president, Jan van Meurs, successfully perform macular buckling several times during my vitreoretinal surgery fellowship, I don’t plan on attempting it anytime soon. Maybe later, when I’m training fellows of my own.

For every conference that I attend, I select a particular theme to help guide my session selections. This year, it’s “peeling”: puckers, the ILM, remnants of posterior hyaloid and dreaded PVR. I like the singular focus on one topic. It concentrates my mind and helps me assimilate all I’ve learned into a coherent whole.

After hours, on the Ducati, this week’s theme is “climbing”. Cruising up to the city’s highest points right after the last session is a great way to escape the post-conference, rush-hour bustle down below. I ride up, stop somewhere high and explore the area until the city calms down in the early evening. Montjuïc Castle provided me with spectacular views of the city on one side and the port and Mediterranean on the other. Tibidado, which I’m planning for this evening, is apparently even better.

But I digress! I urge you to enjoy the last 1.5 days of the conference, whether it’s at today’s EURETINA Update on neovascular AMD or tomorrow’s instructional course on managing submacular haemorrhages. And, if you see a shiny red Italian machine parked outside the conference centre, take a closer look and consider getting your motorcycle license so you can join me for a ride next year. Just don’t forget to plan ahead. Conferences and scenery can fly by so fast when you’re not prepared.