When the COVID-19 pandemic brought in-person medical education activities to a sudden halt last spring, neurosurgeons at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Department of Neurological Surgery of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine stepped into the void, offering a series of online programs on timely topics in their fields.
“Our goal was to bring together the top researchers, scientists and surgeons in the brain tumor world, give them a platform to share their knowledge, and have students, residents and fellows learn and ask questions as well,” said co-director Michael E. Ivan, M.D., M.B.S., assistant professor neurological surgery, and director of research at the Sylvester Brain Tumor Initiative.
Since beginning the Miami Global Brain Tumor Symposium in April, and the International Cerebrovascular and Skull Symposium in May, thousands of neurosurgeons, oncologists and other physicians from more than 85 countries have attended these free medical education programs on brain and skull base tumors, cerebrovascular problems, and other neurosurgical topics.
“We made high-quality neurosurgical education accessible from any location, breaking down the financial barriers and time commitments needed to attend traditional conferences,” said co-director Jacques J. Morcos, M.D., professor and co-chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery, professor of clinical neurosurgery and otolaryngology, director of cerebrovascular surgery, director of skull base surgery, and division chief of cranial neurosurgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
By bringing in well-known specialists, including Sylvester faculty members, the twice-weekly evening “zoomposiums” have attracted as many as 500-plus simultaneous participants, said Dr. Morcos, who organized the Thursday programs, with hot topics such as endonasal versus transcranial approach to skull base tumors and endovascular versus open approach to brain aneurysms.
Latest surgical techniques and clinical breakthroughs
“In these sessions, we discussed everything from the latest surgical techniques to new research and clinical breakthroughs,” said Dr. Ivan. He organized the Wednesday programs, with state-of-the-art topics, such as precision medicine in meningioma surgery, immunotherapy, minimally invasive surgery, and awake craniotomy for gliomas.
After presenting more than 60 sessions in 2020, the two neurosurgeons wrapped up the weekly sessions in December, although they can still be viewed on YouTube.
“We were able to build a strong following, as more than 7,000 people signed up to receive the email invitations every week,” Dr. Ivan said. “It was particularly gratifying to bring free surgical education to young professionals around the world who otherwise would not have been able to access this information or participate in discussions.”
By popular demand, Dr. Morcos and Dr. Ivan have resumed the online symposiums which will be held on a monthly basis through December.
“This has been one of our most successful medical education outreach programs,” Dr. Morcos said. “It has brought increased visibility to Sylvester and is well aligned with our role as a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center.”