Skip to main content

Continuing professional development: Netflix or Carnegie Hall?

Older man looking at camera
Dr. A. Glenn Benoit

I’ve recently received several invitations to a university-sponsored 2-day continuing medical education opportunity. This is an annual educational event held in Vancouver, B.C. The event looks interesting with good topics and excellent speakers. I have attended many previous years. However, it is clearly stated as:

Conference | in-person [Please note this event is offered in person only]

Now I must confess that during the past two years, I’e quite enjoyed education provided through Zoom format. I can hear and see the speakers and their slides much better than in an Auditorium.  I can take notes, ask questions, and review the topics later. I really do not miss sitting at a round table with my back to the speaker and my neck cranked 180 degrees behind me for several hours!

Last year this same meeting was offered virtually only. It would be interesting to compare the number of attendees last year to this year.

I briefly reviewed the educational offerings from the University of British Columbia over the next few months. The meetings were listed as conference virtual, workshop virtual, webinar/rounds, conference in-person, conference in-person/virtual (hybrid). Most of the learning opportunities were offered virtually. The exceptions are the bigger conferences. On a Canadian national level this fall most of the larger meetings(Canadian Fertility & Andrology Society, Canadian Society of Internal Medicine, Addiction Medicine, Family Medicine Forum, Canadian Psychiatric Association, Canadian Cardiovascular Conference etc.) are in-person only.

Large meetings, especially international meetings are very expensive, and they need to fill the seats to pay the bills. However, I believe this does not have to be a battle between Netflix and Carnegie Hall for viewers. I think hybrid meetings can still pay the bills and at the same time provide learning for a wider audience. 

Now. I do not have social anxiety or COVID-phobia and do enjoy catching up with colleagues. However, for me to attend this meeting, I must drive 4.5 hours over mountain passes or fly (2-hour security lineups at Vancouver airport) and stay in an expensive hotel. This is all great if you want to take a break in the big city. But what if you don’t? What if you are on-call or have other commitments? Is in-person education better than remote learning? I don’t know. For myself and all the other physicians limited by geography, time or family obligations, we’ve historically been denied the opportunity to participate. And we know this is more likely to affect female physicians.

There’s also the issue of carbon footprint. Universities and our large professional organizations should be leading the way to reduce carbon emissions.

I’m fearful we’re slipping into our old standard of education pre-pandemic. Organizers of these in-person events will list a plethora of reasons why you must attend in-person—meeting face-to-face, building community and networking. More power to those of you who wish to attend in-person, but it is just not possible for everyone all the time.

Nationwide, there has been much discussion about supporting physicians living and working outside the big centres. CPD providers can give some of that much needed support. The technology for virtual learning is now well developed and will get even better. The hybrid model of CPD should become the default rather than the exception.

Myself, I would like to do Carnegie Hall maybe once a year. Rest of the time give me Netflix.

Dr. A. Glenn Benoit is an office gynecologist in Kelowna, B.C. and a clinical associate professor with the UBC Faculty of Medicine. 

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds