Karen Nash is a medical reporter and media consultant based in Monroeville, PA.
Urology Times® reached out to 3 urologists (selected randomly) and asked them each the following question: What is your impression of virtual meetings and conferences?
“I haven’t attended virtual conferences; however, our department at [the University of California] Irvine does all our Grand Rounds on Zoom. They usually entail scientific lectures, with outside speakers 2 to 3 times a month.
The only meeting I commonly attend is the Western Section, but haven’t gone since returning to California.
In the past 2 years, I attended a billing conference and the Society of Academic Urologists [SAU annual meeting]. I wouldn’t have gone back to the billing conference so soon, anyway. The SAU went virtual in January, but my clinical schedule had started picking up, so I didn’t want to take time off. If we took time off when the [operating rooms] were opening up for elective procedures, I’d have felt bad about time away from patients, even if we weren’t traveling to attend.
Virtual speakers are good and bad. They serve their purpose—we’re able to look at slides, hear the speaker, take notes on our computer. That’s a convenience I definitely like.
We were actually doing Zoom lectures prior to the pandemic because it’s a way to get nationally known figures to give lectures without having to travel across country for a 1-hour presentation. Obviously, it’s a technique a lot of departments have picked up since COVID-19 to keep the quality up and keep lectures going.
My main complaint about virtual lectures is the loss of camaraderie of seeing colleagues face to face and having casual conversations.
I expect we’ll continue to see a hybrid system in that there will be in-person as well as Zoom lectures.”
Ross Moskowitz, MD
“I didn’t participate in virtual conferences this year, although I’ve done a ton of virtual meetings, speaker trainings, advisory boards, but not 1 [continuing medical education] or AUA [American Urological Association] meeting. I’m one of the senior physicians in our organization and have both clinical and system-level responsibilities. When COVID-19 hit, my responsibilities grew. I’m also cochair of our new system-wide Cancer Center of Excellence.
We did most hospital-system meetings virtually. After the pandemic, I hope we incorporate that into our operation because Houston is a very spread-out city—54 miles across—and we have 13 hospitals. When we had a system meeting, we’d have it centrally and everybody had to drive there. But attendance at virtual meetings is through the roof because everybody participates. Even if they’re in the [operating room], between cases they go to the doctors’ lounge and sign in. People are actively engaged in the discussion. Sitting in their office, people don’t feel threatened chiming in and giving an opinion. Meetings also start and end on time because we’re not waiting for stragglers. I would find it deleterious to eliminate them after the pandemic.
AUA meetings could become a hybrid for a couple reasons, [such as] revenues involved for the convention centers, the hotels, and vendors. Secondly, certain things can be harder to do virtually. Vendors find it harder to demonstrate their products.
On the other hand, we had a list of big group courses and some were at the same time. They can video everything, so later you watch whatever courses you missed.”
Nathaniel Barnes, MD
“I just attended the Society for Benign Prostatic Disease [virtual meeting], and maybe a bit of 1 or 2 AUA [American Urological Association] meetings.
It’s a good way to access the general content, probably easier than being there in person, in some ways. For a plenary session or something, it’s just as good, if not better, to do it virtually—having the slide right in front of you while you’re sitting at a desk. It’s easier to take notes on your computer and to look things up while you’re watching.
I certainly miss interacting with colleagues, talking to people about new ideas and new practices. The industry portions are less useful virtually than in-person where we can walk around the booths and see new products and talk to people from the companies.
In smaller breakout and poster sessions that have more Q&A, you get less out of them virtually.
Post pandemic, I would like to see a return to in-person meetings. They’re more engaging overall. Being able to interact with your colleagues is better in person. Portions of the meetings could be done virtually in a very effective manner, which might help with the space considerations. They might have combination meetings where some content is virtual, and some is in person.
I think they’ll offer content virtually for people who might not be able to travel easily for logistical reasons having nothing to do with the pandemic. People who can’t go to every meeting but would still like access the content.”
William Jaffee, MD