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ZOOMING OUT

With my New Year’s resolution 2022 – amongst others, ‘saying no’ to professional meetings, events and other engagements a bit more often – still at the back of my head, I stare at the agenda for the upcoming week that Outlook presents on my computer. Again, I am amazed by the enormous number of meetings, especially when compared to the time that is allocated for patient care.

Clearly, there is pressure on all of our agendas. Many of us try to combine our clinical work with doing research, writing papers, training students and residents, dealing with the paper work and being active in event organization and boards. Preferably not all at the same time.

Therein lies one of our daily challenges. We aim to both be great surgeons and patient care providers, while at the same time some of our professional satisfaction results from having a voice in decisions and being able to be present at meetings and conferences that matter. A virtual meeting or conference eliminates the need of travel and be at a physical venue to attend the event. It saves a lot of time and costs for everyone involved. Since virtual meetings have been said to be more productive and less time consuming, they seem to be planned at a much lower threshold and far more frequently than physical meetings were back when we still could have them. Although working remotely with in patient care is not really an option for surgeons, we are facing the impact of predominantly virtual meetings during the Covid-19 era. This applies to both meetings in-hospital and conferences.

Additionally, there is the in-between solution, the hybrid meeting. The hybrid meeting will leave you with a choice and may create expectations with others about your presence. You might even ask yourself about the impression you intend to give. The impression of the surgeon that has taken the effort to physically attend, at the cost of extra travel time and being less efficient, but enjoys the company of the people instead of staring at the camera? Or the impression of the very important and busy surgeon running from OR to OR, attending virtual meetings in between, but being very efficient and ‘green’.

On the internet one can find impressive amounts of stats on meetings during the Covid-19 pandemic. Not a lot of remarkable scientific research on the topic has been done though, whereas the structural implementation of virtual meetings into our daily practice has brought forward a whole new area of research. Much of the research seems to relate to the obvious, such as the fatigue that  looking into the camera causes, the discovery of upsides of virtual meeting, and scientists that want virtual meetings to stay. 

In 2015, a Harvard based neurology research group developed the Should I travel Index, the so-called ShITI, as a tool to determine whether it is worth the effort and time to travel to a conference [1]. They included time, distance, cost, the funfactor, networking, homerelated conflicts, and the size of the audience, if you were presenting, into the calculation. However, in the current situation, facing the covid pandemic, and all of the pros and cons concerning live and virtual meetings that have introduced new factors of influence, the calculation had to be adjusted to the ShIZ index (Should I Zoom) [2]. The calculator now includes the variables scientific value of the meeting, interaction, Wi-Fi quality, beverage supply, time zone, pajamas possibility, complexity of web, and home distraction or office distraction. A score ≥ 3 means definitely Zoom, ≤ 1 indicates a waste of your time, go do something more useful. 

Since taking over the helm of the European Society for Trauma and Emergency, almost all ESTES executive board and ECTES meetings have been via video conference. And looking in retrospect, these meetings all scored high ShIZ-index scores, certainly above 3. They were productive and inspiring, and certainly very efficient. 

Nevertheless, I miss the face to face interaction, the camaraderie, meeting new people, having a beer and sharing anecdotes after a lengthy meeting, resulting in new friendships and the inspiration for new studies and innovation of care. 

The same applies to the conferences that I attended last year. All but one were virtual conferences, including ECTES 2021. Tina Gaarder has truly elevated organizing and conducting the ECTES to an art form. After having set up the ECTES 2020 as one of the most multidisciplinary meetings that year, sadly enough it had to be postponed due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, Tina and her Norwegian team managed to run a very successful and well attended virtual ECTES 2021 meeting. And this all implies that the forthcoming ECTES conference will be the spectacular capstone of three years Norwegian ECTES preparation. Something to really look forward to! 

For all of you tired of Zoom meetings and conferences, rest assured. We have decided that this conference will be live, or not at all. 

So delete the Should I Zoom factor, and start all over with the 

If that’s a bit over your head, just go to www.shoudlitravel.org, a website set up by the authors of the paper of the same name [1]. I just did so for ECTES 2022 Oslo, and, not surprisingly, scored way beyond the maximum: The European Congress of Trauma and Emergency Surgery 2022 is a must-go! 

So. Maybe a bit overdue, but if you still are looking for a good New Year’s Resolution, I have one for you: 

Go to www.estes-congress.org. Read through the program and be taken away by the overwhelming number and quality of speakers – both national i.e. Norwegian, and international – that will present in Oslo during the ECTES 2022. Register for the conference. And join us on the 24th of April in enjoying the real thing again! A truly high standard, medical, physical, meeting in a mesmerizing environment! 

And yes, we will meet each other again there, exchange ideas, have discussions, listen to inspiring presentations, generate brilliant ideas and future projects, eat Norwegian food, have some drinks and get unforgettable impressions of Oslo. 

I look forward to see you there. 

REFERENCES:

  1. Rutkove SB, Shefner JM, Bowser R, Benatar M. To travel or not to travel: the modern day struggle of the academic researcher. Ann Neurol 2015;78:667–669.
  2. 2. Rutkove SB, Shefner JM, Bowser R, Turner MR, Benatar M. To Zoom or Not to Zoom: The Should I Travel Index Revisited during the Coronavirus Disease Pandemic. Ann Neurol 2021 Jun;89(6):1057-1058.