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COVID, Webinars and Education Distraction.

While the recent emergence of virtual platforms have opened up opportunities for learning and attending seimars like never before, what we might be seeing, especially for trainees, is educational distraction. One might argue that all information is beneficial and the more you know the better, but that ignores a reality that we are all too familiar with, especially in oncology : there is just not enough time.
One outstanding fellow was able to tell me the exact dose and schedule of for maintenance in AML with an off-label drug that where there was one smallish phase II study. How, why and when did he come across that, I wondered. I have on ward rounds asked fellows how the latest, longest named immunotherapy works, for them to impressively offer a detailed explanation of the mechanism of action, co-stimulatory domain and all. The latest targeted therapy ? No problems. ‘So how does prednisone work then?’ That is often followed by some silence and chin- scratching. But they can’t be blamed. When is the last time any of us attended a full length talk, or webinar or satellite session on the wonders of the ‘P’ in CHOP or the ‘D’ in KRD ? Even though probably a day doesn’t go by without us having prescribed steroids to someone.
With our busy schedules – for full time staff and trainess – educational time is limited. While one is free to choose what symposium or webinar one chooses to attend in an evening, we need to be mindful of educational activities that are organized on campus. We need to take control of educational time to learn and disseminate what is most important clinically for our clinical practice patients, rather than what may seem important to a given speaker (their research interest perhaps) or even the sponsor. For those with an interest in AML, upto a few years ago we received almost no emails for CME sessions on ‘induction in AML’. It was all about myeloma, or 2nd line CML therapy. Now they don’t stop. Education needs to be more patient-centered, rather than sponsor-centered.
In a time of resource overload, trainees especially need to prioritize educational time and avoid educational distraction. Build on first principles and concepts. And for their part, organizers of educational sessions should ensure an avoidance of knowledge equivocation in talks on campus. And a single conflict-of-interest slide at the outset does not absolve the speaker of providing a balanced and nuanced presentation of a topic. That’s not to say that educational session are bad, but often they focus on certain aspects of therapy at the expense of others, leading to a skewing of medical knowledge. What we need is that the information provided should be ‘the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’! I think that is also what our patients would want of us.

Dr Sayed Osman Ahmed

Dr Sayed Osman Ahmed

Consultant, Adult Hematology / HSCT

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