Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology
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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 23  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 7-8

Medical conferences and me

Dean, Bombay Hospital and Institute of Medical Sciences, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission20-Nov-2019
Date of Acceptance28-Nov-2019
Date of Web Publication03-Jan-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Satish Khadilkar
Dean's Office, 1st Floor, MRC Building, Bombay Hospital Institute of Medical Sciences, 12, New Marine Lines, Mumbai - 400 020, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/aian.AIAN_613_19

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How to cite this article:
Khadilkar S. Medical conferences and me. Ann Indian Acad Neurol 2020;23:7-8

How to cite this URL:
Khadilkar S. Medical conferences and me. Ann Indian Acad Neurol [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Jun 5];23:7-8. Available from:

The first instance which brought me in contact with the world of medical conferences was as a medical student; a representative of the student council. We had arranged a 2-day meeting wherein illustrative alumnus talked to us. Our youthfulness, their stupendous achievements, and the era then when medicine was perceived as “progressing” had a unique effect on me and conferences became a part of my medical professional life. As a young graduate and then a postgraduate, these occasions gave me and my colleagues the opportunities to present our little works. The happiness when a reputed person uttered some encouraging words would boost me for many days. Seeing the stalwarts at close quarters, talking to them, seeing how they conduct themselves was a joy in itself. Looking back, medical conferences seem to have had a positive impact on us, the eager beavers of academic medicine.

Medicine was much different 40 years ago. Access to knowledge was limited, and one had to follow individuals of distinction to acquire wisdom by coming in direct contact with them. I have seen physicians and neurologists attending Prof. Noshir Wadia's weekly rounds with their small notebooks for the pearls and tit bits. Many came to understand the ataxias and slow eye movements from him. Similar was the delight of seeing Prof. Katrak make a clinical diagnosis or to witness the speed with which Prof. B S Singhal analyzed the history and examination and zoomed on to the correct diagnosis. Learning was in a “direct transfer” mode. Conferences witnessed congregations of such stalwarts and presented opportunities for us to learn from them. Thus, to the young neurologists, conferences were times of direct learning from the accomplished. Mind you, the ambiance was usually not lavish, travel difficult, and the rigmarole of making slides with the help of photography department disproportionately tedious. All put together, as a young student of neurology, I found positive elements in medical conferences.

I joined an academic setup and focused on myology. Showing individual work gradually became as much a part of conferences as learning from others' works. Times were changing in India. The numbers of conferences and numbers of invites exponentially increased in the late 90s and early 2000s. As conferences in India are always held on the weekends, “me time and us time” was short shifted and a certain degree of resentment set in. The only solution was to cut short the time I spent per meeting. So followed the zoom-in zoom-out routine where you rushed from the airport to the venue, said what you thought was worth saying, and started back to headquarters. The serious disadvantage was that personal learning from meetings came to a standstill. There was no time to listen to other speakers, from whom you learn! Many appearances in various meetings also meant that my own study time and reflection time became scarce and as a result, my own work suffered. Thus, in the middle phases of the academic career, conferences became the occasions of peer recognition, but at the cost of personal time, time for family, and for own research. During this time, conferences also served to clarify some of my dilemmas arising out of unclear literature, through insightful commentaries of authorities.

For my colleagues who embraced service neurology as their main work, conferences took another dimension. Overwhelmed with work, they had to leave their “nerve center” to get some solace. Medical meetings offered that backdrop and there was knowledge to be gained as well from the assembled teachers. Realizing this, the medical paraphernalia ensured that the venues were remarkable, food lavish, and travel wonderful! Conferences became places for social meetings and get-togethers and alumni meets were often held during large national meetings.

Medicine was quietly transforming in these decades. Knowledge exploded and clearly went beyond individual grasp. Luckily, the ready availability of information also improved tremendously, and thanks to the Internet, it became very easily possible to get to know whatever and whenever, almost instantly. As has been said, knowledge is of two types, “ first is to know it yourself and second, to know where to find it.” Clearly, we have now moved in the second realm. This master key made some aspects of the conferences redundant. To acquire knowledge, the need to follow individuals in conferences has now been partly eliminated. In addition, it is increasingly becoming easier to piece together a quality talk by surfing on any subject. That has brought in another dimension in the art of providing knowledge. So, in the modern times the audience is exposed to net experts, subject experts, and of course the rare breed of visionaries with new concepts. All have their strengths for the discerning audience.

Saga of office-bearer ships forms the background of yearly meetings of national and regional bodies. The byproduct is a crowded program, many speakers and parallel sessions. A serious attendee has to study the program carefully and pick and choose what he wants out of the large basket of offerings. Also, as there are so many conferences in a year in India, repetition has become inevitable, I have had to speak on favorite topics again and again and have started calling this “the madari effect.” The game the madari and his monkey demonstrate is the same on each street but the onlookers change, so it is worthwhile!

CME credit points are required by all practitioners to keep their license active. Conferences do help that cause, even if you are not attentive! In this respect, one online effort which we conducted under the aegis of the Indian Academy of Neurology is worth quoting. This CME module set of 15 is designed for the physician and general practitioners. On completion, the module also provides a CME credit point certificate through the state medical councils. Such modules will probably be more effective as CME exercises and conferences may have less impact in this regard.

So, it is quite clear that conferences have several things to offer to the doctor, which change as per se niority, individual preferences, and personal evolution in the chosen subject. Keeping all sections of attendees interested is an extraordinary task. What then is the solution? Various aims like training the young, interactive sessions for the practitioners, skill enhancement workshops, new ideas and concept sessions, and advocacy need to be proportionately expressed. May be, “different horses for different courses” philosophy will see evolution of focused meetings with clear aims and purpose, and smaller but more responsible attendance. In India, the interaction of medical personnel and lawmakers is lacking. Both need more emphasis as these are the groups who have to appreciate the works of the medical professionals. Hopefully, future conferences will address these needs.

Bye for now! Traveling to the next medical conference!!


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