PracticeUpdate: How has the COVID epidemic impacted medical education at your institution, for example, with the tumor boards?
Dr. Henry: This has become very interesting in the COVID era, when we can't get together. We've talked about the patient issues, well, how about the doctor issues? We have tumor boards. We sit and talk with each other, perhaps over lunch or over dinner, or a special get-together is planned each week.
I could think of, for example, Breast Tumor Board occurring for us every Tuesday evening. Well, that stopped. We would get together, 20 or 30 people, all different aspects of care, radiology, pathology, radiation, medical oncology, etc.,...and we would see the pathology, see the radiology, and then talk.
So it turns out, you can actually do that fairly effectively by this electronic medium. So, I'm in front of my screen at 4:30 on Tuesdays for the Breast Tumor Board, and the same people are there, and I can see who's there and see who's muted and who's not and where they are, of course. Then the pathologist does a pathology, the radiologist shows that, and we talk. The only curious little feature is you can't really tell who's going to talk next and drown each other out, but we've learned a little more etiquette in these electronic meetings. Now it works fairly well because we don't have to quick get to that conference room. We can just finish maybe patients or be home doing telehealth and sign on and participate just as well.
PracticeUpdate: How has it impacted the more didactic teaching that you do of your trainees?
Dr. Henry: Fellows, residents, and medical students, how are they learning? I gave a noon conference the other day, and I love to do it in person with a chalkboard. Now I'm on electronic, in that case, it was Zoom. I can't do a chalkboard that way, and I had to prepare slides and write on them as we go. So that's changed.
Although our trainees tend to be young and they figure this out very quickly and like it, learn it, in fact it can be saved. So my noon lecture a few weeks ago would be in-person done. Now, I can see that half of them attend, and hopefully, half of them listen to it later. Medical education has taken, and probably will take after this is all over, a turn to a little more electronic use, because you can do it, you can stop where you are, you don't have to get to a room, like we do with our tumor boards. You can just go online, watch it [then] or watch it later, when you have the ability to do so.
PracticeUpdate: What about journal clubs? Are you still conducting those and how is that working?
Dr. Henry: Yes. Interestingly, in our practice, we like to have a journal club, like to get together, pitch cases to each other, and learn from our journals. We can't do that, can't get together. So we instituted an every Tuesday, Thursday, 12:30, stop what you're doing, fire up your computer. One of two things happens. Either we pitch cases to each other, what's happening, who's inpatient rounding up, outpatient, I've got a difficult case; or I've learned there are a number of prerecorded excellent lectures online by thought leaders that...in fact, I'm the one responsible for this. I just go through on the weekend before Tuesday and Thursday and find this week, we'll do hepatoma. Next week, we'll do renal cell. Week after that, we'll do benign hematology.
So everyone logs on at 12:30, and there's a nice key opinion leader, thought leader lecture given on something for 20 minutes with slides and up-to-date information. They're very current. Then we pitch cases to each other and learn that way, and try and review our journals, the next meeting. So we do a little bit of this, a little bit of that, depending on which day of the week. So, that's changed, but allows us to continue our personal education.
PracticeUpdate: What are some challenges in these alternate formats?
Dr. Henry: I think the challenge in these alternate formats has been just getting used to them. Not everyone is quite as computer savvy as someone else. Although I've found that now almost 2 months into this epidemic, most everyone has figured out how to do it, how to enjoy it, how to participate in it. The challenges were the steep learning curve when it first came out, but now that we're into it and know how to use whichever platform, I think the challenges are fewer.
PracticeUpdate: Finally, what are some of the pros and cons of the virtual meeting formats for the major research conferences?
Dr. Henry: Well, let's take the biggest one as we recorded this in mid May 2020, ASCO, American Society of Clinical Oncology. Our big wonderful meeting every last few days of May, first few days of June, in Chicago is coming up, not happening...35,000+ plus people coming. What did our poor, wonderful current president Dr. Skip Burris do? He realized it had to be virtual. So it was canceled, maybe I think back in March or April, it was canceled, and they decided to put the meeting on exactly as planned. All the presentations, oral, will take place Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, of that weekend. For members, it will be free. It'll occur live and also be archived, so if you miss it, you can watch it that night. They couldn't do everything, so the educational sessions will not be held, but they'll be available down the road; the educational book will just go out, in fact, I just got mine.
I asked Dr. Burris, "What about my poster? Am I going to have to show it to my family in the living room, all that work? Nobody will ever see it." He said, "No, we're doing the posters." Fascinatingly, the poster session, let's say it's Saturday morning from 8:00 to 12:00 on that particular weekend...you'll go online and you can actually walk down the hallway, so to speak, looking at the posters as you would have before, and maybe even you won't be tired out in walking so much, maybe even do a better job. So, the meeting will go on, in this case, ASCO. Other meetings have taken similar format. It's a huge technology challenge, but hopefully, it will all go off as planned.
PracticeUpdate: Do you anticipate a lasting impact from this transition to a virtual conference experience?
Dr. Henry: I think this may have a lasting impact. I truly hope when we're all able to come back together, that the meetings do occur back together. There is a wonderful nature and feeling to getting together with colleagues and networking, sharing ideas in the middle of a meeting, just outside of the meeting, at dinner that night. So, that's missing, but I do think this new format, which we're learning, will be enduring and help those who can't attend or couldn't attend at that moment, maybe even at the meeting, could watch it later, either from home, or in Chicago, in this case of ASCO. I think this will have, and Dr. Burris echoed this, this will have a lasting impact, but hopefully the in-person meetings will return one day.