Jorge L. Alió del Barrio MD, PhD, FEBOS-CR-Consultant in Ophthalmology. Cornea, Cataract and Refractive Surgery Unit, Vissum (Miranza Group), Alicante, Spain.
Between October 8th and 11th, I had the pleasure to be involved in the 39th congress of ESCRS in Amsterdam. It was great to have ESCRS back. It never actually really paused, as the pure virtual meeting from 2020 was also a success and an example of how meetings can survive even within one of the worst years of recent European history. However, in my view, the essence of face-to-face meetings is just in a different league.
ESCRS this year kept a combined model where people could join virtually to assist or even present a lecture or moderate a session. Witnessing a session where one of the moderators was virtually participating almost as efficiently as the one physically present, was surprising, but I came to the realisation that it will likely be part of the new reality for the next few years. Within this unfortunate pandemic, where traveling has got complex, we missed so many of our friends from America, Asia, Africa and Oceania, whose participation was far from what it used to be, and despite this, ESCRS in Amsterdam was far from what we saw in Paris in 2019. We had over 4000 face-to-face registrations and an additional 3000 virtual attendees, which can be considered as a great success considering the times we are all living in.
We would all probably agree that we missed the magnificence of the previous ESCRS sessions, but it was a good start from where we will have to grow again and work hard on recovering the participation of ophthalmologists outside the European Union, as without them we are missing an important part of ophthalmology. However, this combined physical/virtual model will likely persist, since its virtual mode approximates the meeting to those colleagues that may struggle to reach Europe, either because of the distance or socio-economic circumstances.
It has been a pleasure to be back at ESCRS and attend face-to-face meetings, feel the essence, recover the conversations in the corridors, the lectures and debates. Virtual meetings have come to stay, however humans are social animals, and from physical contact flows true science and learning.