Maintaining Our Relationships as We Learn in a Virtual Environment

August 2020 – Vol. 39, No. 7

Our Academy meeting is right around the corner and there is an excitement building about (albeit forced by COVID-19) our first-ever all virtual experience. A recent article I read, “Bridging Tradition and Globalism: How to Add Value to Virtual Meetings,” from Aptitude Health, stated, “While traditional engagement paradigms are heavy on live interactions and building personal relationships, the digital landscape often seems to erase these. However, virtual meetings bring together high-quality professionals regardless of geography and hold promise for highly productive and energetic meetings, all while maintaining the personal quality of traditional meetings.” This digital experience does have the potential to cross all boundaries of geography, defying prior time constraints and including virtual interactive components for our colleagues across the globe. How many residents and colleagues with call and practice commitments will now have an opportunity to engage virtually?

Duane J. Taylor, MD, AAO-HNS/F President

Duane J. Taylor, MD
 AAO-HNS/F President

Our meeting will span six weeks beginning Sunday, September 13, with our three-day kick-off live event starting in week one. This includes the Opening Ceremony, featuring keynote speaker, Joel Selanikio, MD; the John Conley, MD Lecture on Medical Ethics; the H. Bryan Neel III, MD, PhD Distinguished Research Lecture; the Section for Residents and Fellows-in-Training and Young Physicians General Assemblies; the AAO-HNS Career Fair; Alumni Receptions; and SIM Tank as well as presentations on the business of medicine, COVID-19, patient safety, and quality improvement. Week two will focus on rhinology and allergy, and week three will feature head and neck surgery and endocrine; the International Symposium; the Spanish Webcast; the International Advisory Board General Assembly; the Women in Otolaryngology Section General Assembly and documentary movie premiere; and the Eugene N. Myers, MD International Lecture on Head and Neck Cancer. The following specialty weeks will include laryngology/broncho-esophagology, pediatric otolaryngology, otology, neurotology, sleep medicine, and culminate the last week with comprehensive otolaryngology and facial plastics and reconstructive surgery. In addition, there will be scientific e-posters, networking opportunities, interactions with vendors, and as always, wellness activities.

“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.”

James P. Comer, MD, MPH

In some respects, what makes our Annual Meeting so special is not just the education content but the ability to form and build new relationships and personal networks, rekindle old relationships, and become energized by the camaraderie we get annually when we all come together face to face. This is a challenge that has impacted all aspects of our lives, and we’ve had to navigate through it in the past few months. It makes us think about how we are currently trying to maintain and create the magic of relationship building in this new format that we have been forced to embrace. Now more than ever, this is the chance to be creative and challenged to not allow the barriers of a virtual platform to stand in the way of our annual opportunity to “come together.”

What can we do to try to maintain the personal touch with this new venue? Well, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Consider a phone or video call, an email, or a text to your friends and colleagues to decide on presentations you may want to view together
  2. Take advantage of chat/video platform opportunities to comment
  3. Try to always state your name and where you are from when asking a question or making a comment
  4. If you are comfortable, share a personal experience or case
  5. In light of all of the events going on, be EMPATHETIC and take opportunities to engage each other and share experiences, challenges, successes, and strategies

I look forward to your participation at the Annual Meeting this year, and remember, We Are One.