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Br J Hosp Med (Lond). 2021 Nov 2;82(11):1-9. doi: 10.12968/hmed.2021.0442. Epub 2021 Nov 10.
BACKGROUND: In recent years, the number of people pursuing a surgical career in the UK has decreased. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancellation of surgical placements for medical students and has affected surgical education. This study evaluates the perceptions and impact of a 1-day virtual surgical conference for medical students considering pursuing a surgical career.
METHODS: All delegates of the 2021 Barts and The London International Surgical Conference were invited to participate in two online surveys pre- and post-conference. Data were collected and analysed to evaluate delegates’ reasons for attending the conference, and attitudes towards virtual conferences and a surgical career before and after the conference.
RESULTS: Out of 132 participants, 106 (80.3%) completed both the pre- and post-conference surveys. Clinical students showed a statistically significant difference in interest in pursuing a surgical career after the conference than before (P=0.03), unlike pre-clinical students (P=0.12). Post-conference, 43 (40.6%) preferred a virtual to a face-to-face conference, which was a slight increase from 40 (37.7%) pre-conference, while 73 (68.9%) and 80 (75.5%) participants favoured virtual talks and presentations respectively. In contrast, only 12 (11.3%) and 21 (19.8%) students preferred workshops and networking virtually. Furthermore, delegates liked the global accessibility and environmentally-friendly nature of virtual conferences but found they can be less engaging and be disrupted by a poor internet connection.
CONCLUSIONS: Virtual surgical conferences have many benefits and can help encourage medical students towards a surgical career. They could help bridge the surgical educational gap in medical school during these unprecedented times. Virtual conferences, which have a broader and more inclusive reach, could be an important complement to conventional conferences after the pandemic.