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Fewer applauders in medical congresses; what has happened?

Medical congresses offer impressive research presentations, educational lectures by important scientists, challenging round tables and debates, valuable workshops, and happy life when they are held in magic places all over the world. The problem is that they are getting more and more expensive and that many times the level of the offered education is not exactly what we are expecting. For example, if you go to a congress and are aware of the fact that the famous professor has probably been giving the very same lecture for the 100th time, you feel that you are not getting the update you were hoping to receive.

Or, if research presentations are dealing with the unimportant or already solved research questions or finish like "however, many other studies will be needed to come to conclusions", we feel that we had better go to the sea in front of our hotel, instead of losing our time in the congress hall.

Also, when an evaluation of our CV is made for an appointment, the various committees many times, consider the participation to congresses not so important, especially when we are not the ones they want to choose. Also, when our earnings are too few to support the participation in congresses, the question for the real need to go to congresses becomes stronger and stronger.

The worst experience I have ever had was in a congress conducted in Athens, and organized by Professors in Surgery. The congress participation fee was free, but at the end of it there was a workshop, for surgeons, with a fee of 500 Euros per participant. The workshop lasted almost 30 minutes. The participants were 20 in total, and the animals used for education was ... one! The time available for each surgeon was about 1 minute and a few seconds. In this way, we paid 500 Euros for one minute of education. This was too expensive for us, because our monthly income was 1200 Euros. We did not really respect the organizers after this congress. And we were feeling like idiots who pay the professor in order to buy a piece of paper, as evidence of participation.

In another 15- day- Laparoscopic Surgery workshop, held in a magic Greek island, and paid by the Ministry of Health, when I applied, I was told that I was the first who applied. When the results were announced, for the persons who were chosen according to the date of applying, I saw that I was not included in the participants list. I called the organizers many times and finally managed to participate, because I knew that I was the first applicant. When I arrived in the island I saw that the only surgeon in the Laparoscopic Surgery workshop was me and 2 others, and the rest participants were psychiatrists, microbiologists, general doctors, doctors without specialty very young ones, etc. It was very hard for me to understand. Later, I understood why those persons were chosen. The hotels were paid by the Ministry of Health, and the participants were close persons of the organizers. The instructors never came out of the sea, and the workshop was something like a ghost-workshop.

In a third 2- day workshop, although I was a participant I was asked to teach the rest of my colleagues, because I was already a specialized surgeon then. When the workshop finally ended, and after having completed 20/20 right answers in the test, I learnt that I was the only one who failed in the total evaluation. This was quite strange, and in the end I understood that this happened because the organizers did not like persons who were correcting their mistakes during the workshop!

In a fourth congress, at the registration desk, I met a surgeon, who was member of a committee for appointments in the National System of Health and who had given a negative mark formy appointment in a rural Hospital of North Greece. The surgeon received his registration bag and card at the arrival day, and never again appeared in the congress. In this way, I understood why he gave the mark "zero" to the education I had received in 250 congresses. Because he thought that all doctors are just "buying attendance certificates" in congresses exactly as he does.

Such kind of experiences seem to be a reason for less people coming to congresses. Perhaps, many have had unpleasant memories from congresses. It is not so wonderful always to attend a congress. Sometimes you feel that everything is done for the money. And that many participants go to congresses for tourism, and return to their country with a certificate of attendance, which is included in their CV.

The congress applauders most of the times are persons who depend on the speaker. PhD students, MSc students, pregraduate students, and others like them, go to congresses and sit in the front chairs so that the speaker can easily see them. The more powerful the speaker the more crowded the congress hall. There is not something bad in showing respect to a respectful professor, but it is not at all nice to go to a congress just because you pretend that you are interested in learning. Economic crisis has limited the power of doctors to pay for congresses. Even the tourist interest of Greek islands is not so attractive to young doctors who are paid 65 Euros for 24-hour duties.

For learning, a congress is not so important and necessary for doctors who are skilled in the use of medical internet. Except you wish to fill you CV with papers of attendance, the rest of it is not so useful, if talking for congresses held in Greece.

In order to put yourself in the chair of the applauder, you need first to be young and to believe to the speaker. To respect him. However, respect is now less than ever. Because when you see in the round table the young 25-year old daughter of the famous professor, who is a nursery school teacher according to her studies, presented in the congress as "Lecturer of Medical School" because her father gave her this position ... then you don't feel respect.

How can you be an applauder any more if you cannot attend a PhD programme in your country, because all PhD positions are available for the sons and daughters of professors? How can you be an applauder any more if you should leave your country in order to learn a new surgical technique because all the educational operations are available for the elite of doctors in the Hospitals (sons, daughters, sons-in-law daughters-in-law, lovers, nephews, etc).

Now very few people go to congresses in Greece. In fact, all the abstracts submitted to congresses are accepted, because the number of submitters is too small. The fee for participants is getting higher and higher because the participants are too few to cover the congress expenses. During the oral presentation announcements, you may see 10-12 persons in a huge conference hall, and all of them are waiting to present their own presentation! Why doctors are not interested? Because they know what they are going to hear, and they are very disappointed.

A great concern for congress organizers is to gather participants. That is why many times they give more than 1 certificate to participants, in order to make them get interested. Once I received 12 certificates from one congress. I paid the salary of one month ... Some years later I understood that if you don't have someone close to you, coming from the elite of the doctors, it does not matter how much you have tried to learn with or without certificates.

There are still some very well organized congresses, where you learn many things, and you feel so grateful for the organizers. One very good congress, of the ones held in Greece, was the European Congress of Neuroendocrinology, held in Athens, on 2006. Although you were tired you just could not leave because all the speakers were so important and their lectures were well prepared and interesting ... The reason that we have so many congresses in Greece is that the organizers are trying to earn money from the younger doctors. Another reason is that they wish to make up their CVs with all those congress committees (100 doctors in the Organizing Committee, 100 doctors in the Scientific Committee, and 100 doctors in the Local Organizing Committee)... . All the members of their families, all of them included in the hypertrophic committees, chairmen, vice presidents, etc.

Are you still wondering why the applauders are becoming fewer in medical congresses?

Irene Christodoulou

Editor in Chief
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Author:Christodoulou, Irene
Publication:Archives: The International Journal of Medicine
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2009
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