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Make the most of virtual ESCRS

Sorcha Ní Dhubhghaill offers a guide to the ESCRS Virtual Congress

Sorcha Ni Dhubhghaill

Posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Oliver Findl, chairman of the Young Ophthalmologists Programme

It goes without saying that the past six months have changed everything; How we work, how we learn and of course how we come together as a profession. And while at the start of this pandemic, October seemed like a safe month for a conference, it is increasingly clear that that is unlikely. And while we all hope for things to look better and brighter by then, we cannot be sure. To ensure the safety of all participants, Professor Rudy Nuijts, President of the ESCRS, along with the ESCRS Executive, have decided to hold the annual ESCRS meeting as an online rather than a live event.

The annual ESCRS meeting is the biggest gathering of the year for European ophthalmologists and so this news comes as a bit of a blow, in particular for the young ophthalmologist (YOs). The YOs usually flock to the practical sessions and wet labs for a chance to practice new techniques with the advice of a master in the field. It’s hard not to be a bit disappointed – but on the plus side, none of the sessions will be booked out!

The show must go on as always, there’s a silver lining. For there are a number of benefits to an online meeting format that you may not have considered. Rest assured that registration — open in August this year — with greatly reduced registration fees is still well worth it. So, make a cup of tea (or treat yourself to a glass of wine if it’s not too early) and prepare to enjoy the first ESCRS meeting you can attend, from home, in your comfiest sweatpants. And you get to save all that money on airfare and accommodation.

The programme kicks off on Friday the 2nd of October with the opening of the 3D interactive exhibition. You will be able to make a profile for yourself and “visit” the booths before the academic sessions start. The session starts with an update on the COVID-19 situation for ophthalmologists as well as a tribute to those working to stem the tide of the pandemic.

This is followed by the official opening of the congress and the Ridley Medal lecture which will be given by Dr David Chang — a trailblazer in innovative ophthalmic surgery. The title of his lecture is “Five Compelling Lessons from the Greatest Team of Cataract Surgeons” and I am not sure I have ever read a more compelling title for the young ophthalmologist. Who is this team? What did they learn? This one is surely not to be missed.

After that you can pick between the JCRS symposium, the ESCRS/EuCornea session or the ESCRS/WSPOS symposium — feel free to drop by the paediatric session and I can tell you about the learning curves of special intra-ocular implants. Here’s the best part: even if you miss the sessions the first time around, you will be able to catch them afterwards. I attended the virtual World Ophthalmology Congress (WOC) online this year and I am still logging in to watch the sessions from time to time. So, you really don’t have to miss a thing.

The Saturday sessions start at 8:30am — or later if you want. The benefit of catching it live is that you will be able to ask the presenters questions in real time. You don’t even have to stand up and find the microphone, you can just fire questions from your laptop. All questions welcome.

The ESCRS/EURETINA program has a really practical theme, cataract surgery in patients with AMD. Something we see rather frequently so if you want to adapt your approach to treat these patients better, make sure to tune in. The next main symposium covers “what to do when the unexpected happens” and offers practical advice on how to turn a mess into a success. The YO session follows this up and gives some crucial advice on the basics from the experiences of other young ophthalmologists.

Sunday starts when you want it to start — but again if you are an early bird you can participate in the video symposium on surgical complications (where you can vote live), the YO programme or the myopia workshop. At lunch-time you can follow the industry satellite meetings but you may have to bring your own lunch this time. The future of cataract surgery and the glaucoma workshops are the main highlights of the afternoon and should bring you to the closing of the congress.

Like in most professions, COVID has forced us to adapt and the ESCRS is making this pivot to provide the best content in the safest way. The online congress will let you follow everything you want at the pace that suits you, in your own home. It may also help some of our colleagues that could not afford to attend in person the chance to join in and they will be most welcome. So, bookmark the link and follow everything you want to, without worrying about being too late or the room being too crowded.

Sorcha Ní Dhubhghaill MB PhD MRCSI(Ophth) FEBO is an Anterior Segment Ophthalmic Surgeon at the Netherlands Institute for Innovative Ocular Surgery (NIIOS) and Antwerp University Hospital