Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Are international medical conferences an outdated luxury the planet can’t afford? Yes

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 26 June 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1466

Video conference , teleconference are complimentary to traditional international medical conference

Process of communication has undergone sea change in recent years. Marked changes also been observed in the process of information gathering. In this context debate about the effectiveness of traditional international conference is timely. In the nineties, we are all anxious about the future of print journal with the widespread availability of internet. But we gradually realised that both are here to stay. There is little doubt that video-conference or tele-conference or satellite- conference has its own benefits and pitfalls; but benefits and implication of traditional conferences are much wider. In a state level conference about three years back I was presenting a lecture on how to get best out of conference. I presented an acronym “UPAHAR” (Bengali word – meaning gift) as main benefits of a conference: [U = Update Knowledge; P = Presentation; A = Action Plan; H = Hear New Ideas; A = Access to new instruments and books; R = Recreation (includes visiting places). We must clearly understand that our primary objective is essentially academic and rest is secondary. Unfortunately sometimes secondary objectives get more priority over the primary one. Clearly, the benefit of tele-conference or satellite-conference is limited mainly to updating of knowledge (may be more focused one). The impact from air-travel to conference leading to more release of carbon -dioxide and global warming is interesting but addresses a small aspect of a significant problem of global warming. Involvements of pharmaceutical Industries, sponsorship to individuals are far more debatable issues in arrangement of a conference. Sadly one of our professor friends told us that anybody can give a lecture but getting the sponsorship is the main aspect of arranging a conference today.

Listening to a speaker face to face has its own impact. Listening to a live jazz concert and watching the same in television are never be the same. Interestingly, we had the opportunity to listen to Mahmoud Fathalla (as professor Drife also mentioned in his article listening to him in different conference) at world conference of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Copenhagen in 1997. Since then, we clearly believe that gynaecologists are not ‘only gynaecologists’; they are the advocate of women’s health. Our own attitude of practice has changed ever since we had the opportunity to listen to the lecture and meeting him. We feel the traditional conference is here to stay and satellite conferences will be complementary to it. Debate should continue about the ways a conference to be arranged now and development of some form of basic guidelines many be appropriate (both for the organiser and for the participants).

Competing interests: None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

04 July 2008
Sukumar Barik
Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and Academic Director
Westbank Hospital , Howrah , 711109, India