Every other year, hundreds of ophthalmologists and ophthalmic nurses from all over northern Europe converge for the Nordic Congress of Ophthalmology (NOK) to learn the latest in everything from allied health to vitreoretinal surgery. Last month’s meeting in Stockholm had something new. For the first time in the meeting’s 41 years, young ophthalmologists from the European Society of Ophthalmology (SOE) collaborated to present an educational program strictly for their own peers.
YOs from the Nordic countries Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark are represented by the supranational SOE YO committee, but the Danish Foreningen af Yngre Oftalmologer is the only national association of its kind in the region.
“The YO concept itself is still very new in Europe,” said Marie Louise Roed Rasmussen, MD, an SOE member and an organizer of Nordic Congress YO program.
But Dr. Rasmussen and several other young physicians knew there was a large audience of YOs all across Europe who want additional avenues for networking and educational opportunities tailored just for them. They decided to develop what became the Nordic YO program.
The idea came to fruition during the 2013 SOE Congress, when NOK and SOE president Stefan Seregard, MD, tasked members of the SOE YO committee with sketching out the initial plan. Dr. Rasmussen then joined forces with SOE YO committee chair Anthony Khawaja, MA Cantab, MB BS, MRCOphth, who also serves on the Academy’s YO international subcommittee.
Left to right: Drs. Grace Sun, Marie Louise Roed Rasmussen, Stefan Seregard and Gauti Johannesson.
Dr. Khawaja led the launch of the SOE YO committee, based on consultation with Academy leaders, staff and the YO committee. The Academy’s YO international subcommittee collaborates with other ophthalmic organizations around the world to develop their own organizational structures and education for young ophthalmologists.
After the 2013 SOE meeting, Drs. Rasmussen and Khawaja immediately began brainstorming via Skype. As Dr. Rasmussen expected, it was both easy and positive to line up talented young ophthalmologists to present.
Many YOs haven’t yet had the chance to speak at an international conference. What better way to learn than at an intimate session amongst other peers?
“After our initial discussions,” said Dr. Rasmussen, “Dr. Khawaja and I had four YOs whom we really wanted to participate and also a list of more than 15 possible topics that we needed the right speakers for.”
To track down the remaining participants, she reached out to SOE YO representatives from other Nordic countries while also mobilizing peers from a wide range of other conferences and meetings. When communication slowed, Dr. Rasmussen got further suggestions from professors and mentors all over the northern European area, who offered up promising YOs in their respective countries.
Within six weeks, they had finalized the YO program of the 42nd NOK meeting. The result was an impressive program covering four different events:
- Preliminary ophthalmic trauma session — Prior to the main meeting, the YO program kicked off with a one-day, resident-level course on trauma led by Dr. Seregard. “Typically a mandatory part of the Swedish residents’ training program,” said Dr. Rasmussen, “the event was open to all YOs for the first time and was met with great success.”
- “Young Surgeons: How to Improve” — During this first of two 90-minute sessions, five YOs from Denmark, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom discussed how to improve surgical technique when operating independently. They also covered how to take quality surgical videos and photos using a smartphone and how to overcome difficulties in surgical training.
- “Young Ophthalmologists in the Nordic Region” — The final session of the program featured YOs from around the region discussing what it’s like to practice and train in the area — all from a unique Nordic point of view. Grace Sun, MD, a member of the Academy’s YO international subcommittee, concluded with a discussion of the YO experience in the Unites States. She also explained how the Academy’s YO Committee and YO subcommittees are organized and why it’s so important academically and politically.
- YO reception — This closing event gave all attendees a chance to ask speakers additional questions and mingle with YOs from around the world in a more casual setting.
Dr. Rasmussen said she hopes the NOK YO program inspires young ophthalmologists from other Nordic countries to establish national activities and organizations of their own. She thinks the results could spread like wildfire around the continent.
“Regardless of where we live, many decisions — be they educational, clinical or political — are made on behalf of us by professors and politicians and perhaps rightfully so,” said Dr. Rasmussen, “but it oftentimes leaves YOs out of the decision-making process altogether.”
She believes this summer’s NOK YO program will act as a beacon, showing all involved that they, themselves, have the power to create courses, meetings and forums that recognize the diversity in training and practice encountered by all young physicians. “It’s my hope that it ultimately creates a new awareness in the minds of YOs,” said Dr. Rasmussen, “One that can be very constructive and informative.”
For its part, the Nordic Congress has promised to include at least three more YO sessions, plus a brand-new YO lounge for the 2016 meeting in Denmark.
For a full recap of this year’s NOK, visit www.nok2014.com.
* * *
About the author: Mike Mott is a former assistant editor for EyeNet Magazine and contributing writer for YO Info.