SPIRIT OF COOPERATION
Continuing the impressive growth of recent years, over 440 candidates from 24 European countries took part in the 2013 European Board of Ophthalmology Diploma (EBOD) examinations. “It is my pleasure to announce that the 2013 examinations have once again attracted the highest ever number of candidates. I think this emphasises the growing significance and importance of the EBO qualification for so many of our young ophthalmologist residents and specialists,” said Catherine Creuzot-Garcher, president of the European Board of Ophthalmology. Held every year in Paris, the EBOD examination is designed to assess the knowledge and clinical skills requisite to the delivery of a high standard of ophthalmic care both in hospitals and in independent clinical practices. Addressing the successful candidates at the award ceremony, Philippe Denis, president of the French Society of Ophthalmology (SFO), paid tribute to the hard work of the EBO team. “Ophthalmic education is very important and I would like to pay tribute to the work of EBO. We all know that the participation of ophthalmology residents in the EBO exam is constantly progressing and we know that the level of education is also improving, so this is good news for the future of ophthalmology,” he said. Congratulating the successful candidates on their achievements, Prof Christina Grupcheva, chair of the EBO Education Committee, reminded the gathered assembly of the history and purpose of EBO. “We started with 44 people sitting the exam 18 years ago and reaching a huge number of 440 candidates in 2013. This is a more difficult task than one might think because we all come from different backgrounds and we study things in slightly different ways. But with time, we have found a way to achieve our goal and we are finally at the stage where we can say that we are delivering a common European education,” she said. NEW EBO PRESIDENT Dr Catherine Creuzot-Garcher is building on the work of her predecessors and plans to continue the excellent work of EBO Since January 2013, Catherine Creuzot-Garcher MD, PhD, FEBO, has been settling into her new role as president of the European Board of Ophthalmology (EBO). Describing her election as president of the EBO as an “honour and a privilege”, Dr Creuzot-Garcher told EuroTimes that her principal goal for her two-year term of office is to continue to build on the sterling work achieved by other leaders of the organisation. “I am just another stone in the wall that has been built over many years thanks to the efforts of previous presidents such as Jean Jacques De Laye, Tero Kivela, Marie- José Tassignon, Marko Hawlina and Wagih Aclimandos. It is a great privilege to follow in their footsteps and I will do my utmost to continue the upward momentum of the EBO in the months and years ahead,” she said. One of the key tasks of Dr Creuzot- Garcher will be to maintain and extend the EBO’s role as the guardian of ophthalmic training standards across its European member countries. “A European assessment of knowledge is mandatory,” believes Dr Creuzot-Garcher. “It will strengthen the overall quality of teaching. Students and teachers can share their feelings and can improve their teaching methods. All of us can learn from each other. The aim of EBO is to improve the quality of teaching with a direct benefit for our patients. The difficulty is that while the organisation of various European health systems is quite different, the level of knowledge of our students should still be the same,” she said. In particular, Dr Creuzot-Garcher said that she will strive to build on the phenomenal success of the annual EBO Diploma examination which is designed to assess the knowledge and clinical skills requisite to the delivery of a high standard of ophthalmic care both in hospitals and in independent clinical practices. “I will closely follow the direction given by previous presidents in terms of safeguarding the professionalism and integrity of the EBOD exam. To ensure this, we need to maintain the highest standards, with very controlled rules for the oral examinations in order to have homogeneous results among different juries. I would also like to go further with the potential evaluation of the level of knowledge in the ophthalmic subspecialties,” she said. As Dr Creuzot-Garcher sees it, one of the main challenges for EBO will be to foster sustained but manageable growth in the EBOD examination in the coming years. “There is definitely potential for the exam to grow even more, especially if the exam is recognised as equivalent to the national exam in more European countries. This is already the case in Switzerland and Belgium and it is strongly recommended in many other countries such as France, Austria, Slovenia and Finland. If it grows even more, we may have to consider the organisational and infrastructural implications of that. Up until now, the French Society of Ophthalmology (SFO) has kindly provided us with excellent facilities in order to welcome students and examiners for the EBOD exams every year,” she said. Another target will be to increase the number of EBO accredited teaching centres across Europe and enhance cooperation with other ophthalmic societies, said Dr Creuzot-Garcher. Marko Hawlina honoured by EBO Marko Hawlina MD, PhD, FEBO, was honoured at this year’s EBO examination as the third recipient of the Peter Eustace Medal for his contribution to the cause of ophthalmic education in Europe. The Peter Eustace Medal was established by the EBO in 2010 in honour of Prof Peter Eustace from Ireland who established the first EBO Diploma examination in Milan in 1995. Prof Hawlina received his PhD in retinal electrophysiology from London University under the mentorship of Prof Hisako Ikeda. His residency in ophthalmology was carried out at the University of Ljubljana and at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Prof Hawlina is head of the research group of University Eye Hospital Ljubljana and Chair of Ophthalmology at Medical Faculty of University of Ljubljana, Slovenia and president of the Slovenian Society of Ophthalmology. For many years, Prof Hawlina has been active in developing communications between ophthalmic training centres in eastern and western Europe and managing grants for young ophthalmologists, principally from eastern Europe. EBOD 2013 Multinational flair Tillmann P Eckert MD was the recipient of the Alan Ridgway award and the prize for Best Overall EBOD classification. “Since I have been an ophthalmologist for nearly 20 years there are quite a lot of important basics that I had forgotten years ago. My main motivation for the EBO examination, besides the diploma, was the opportunity to refresh my knowledge in ophthalmology in the months before the exam. Of course I wanted to do my best and pass the exam but I was really surprised when the results were announced during the ceremony. The EBO exam has been a really positive experience. What made it exceptional is the multinational flair with many colleagues from different parts of Europe and the location in Paris. My future plans in ophthalmology principally involve trying to keep pace with the steady and fascinating increase of knowledge in our field.” A proud achievement Ebru Gorgun from Turkey shared second place in the Alan Ridgway Award and second place in the Overall EBOD classification. “I wanted to see both my level of academic knowledge and my position compared to my colleagues in Europe. The EBO exams were largely a positive experience and I was so proud to be so successful. Positive responses and congratulations from my colleagues increased my pride when I was back home since the EBOD is considered to be an important examination within Turkish ophthalmology. I would recommend all ophthalmologists who have completed their residency to take this examination both to test their academic level and become aware of areas of difficulty. Also being certified for such a board examination will contribute to their career advancement as well. The plan for my career in ophthalmology is to continue to develop my academic background, keeping my knowledge up-to-date and transferring this academic knowledge and experience to the next generation of ophthalmologists.” An important qualification Ramin Khoramnia from Germany came second in the Overall EBO classification. “It is very important for European doctors to have a European degree these days, because European thinking is becoming more and more important. In a united Europe, the exams in the different European countries should be comparable to guarantee the same quality of the doctors in every country. I think that you get very well prepared for the EBO exam at the University of Heidelberg. At this clinic, we have a lot of subspecialties that many other clinics cannot offer such as refractive surgery, uveitis, rehabilitation, inherited retinal diseases, etc. As all these subspecialties are covered by the EBO exam, you certainly have an advantage if you have done your specialisation at an institution which covers the full spectrum of ophthalmology. The EBO exam is not an easy exam, but it is very interesting and enriching to participate. I would highly recommend others to take the EBO exam. A common exam is the best way to make sure that you have the same knowledge as your colleagues in the neighbouring countries. For the future, I would like to continue working at the University Clinic of Heidelberg.” Setting a standard Sorcha Ní Dhubhghaill from Ireland shared third place in the Overall EBOD classification. “I was quite surprised and extremely pleased with the EBOD results. Irish trainees are sitting the exam more and more nowadays. The EBOD qualification is a more widely recognised exam that can really support your applications to departments all over Europe. By setting a standard, employers can be reassured that external trainees can be trusted. As a young ophthalmologist looking to travel and learn from other centres in Europe, the EBOD is a very powerful and welcome addition to my CV. After the exam it was interesting to note how many people had been taught by the examiners, giving them little tricks and tips that will help them down the road. You sometimes forget that the exam itself is a learning process too. I recently moved over to the University of Antwerp, Belgium where taking the EBOD is expected. Since my Dutch is quite basic it was great to be able to take the exam in my native English so we are all on an equal footing. I was happy not to embarrass my Irish mentors and trainers in front of the Belgians. I’d like to stay in Antwerp longer and use this opportunity to learn how to achieve the work-life balance they have mastered here.” Keep up to date Jens Lindegaard from Denmark shared third place in the Overall EBOD classification. “I am a second-year fellow in cataract and corneal surgery. I spend most of my time exploring this field and in order to keep up with the other areas in ophthalmology I found it very useful to take the EBO exam. I enjoy keeping up to date and even though I do a lot of reading it was great to be pushed into studying again. I always like the challenge of exams and luckily I do not feel stressed. There was a great diversion in the questions with some very challenging questions also. The ‘viva voce’ part is a great way to explore and discuss questions. The examiners were very positive and friendly. All in all it has been a very positive experience that I highly recommend to other residents and fellows to take part in. Especially because you get to study all parts of ophthalmology and end up feeling that there are not any large ‘hidden areas’. Currently I am focusing on getting more experience in performing corneal surgery, an area which has a lot to offer.” Future career options Anish Shah from the UK shared third place in the Overall EBOD classification. "To have come joint third out of over 440 candidates across 24 countries is very good news, and hopefully means I’ve done enough reading! My motivation in taking the EBO exam was to gain another qualification, and to force myself to revise material already prepared for the British FRCOphth exam which I passed last year. British trainees rarely sit the EBO exam because it has no direct relevance to the UK training system and is considerably easier than our Royal College exam. At €400 it is also relatively expensive as a ‘trial run’ when they could just attempt our own exam earlier than normal – and stand a chance of passing it. However, for the European trainees who do not currently have a different national level qualifying exam, I would recommend it. I am going to start subspecialist training in vitreoretinal surgery next year. The employment situation for certain subspecialties in UK ophthalmology is currently dire, with some doctors having completed PhDs and multiple fellowships and still failing to obtain consultant posts. So my plans are very wide open, and would include the possibility of pursuing future career options outside the UK if appropriate."