MEETINGS. What is to be got out of organizing an international conference on your own turf and within your own sphere of research? We asked Johan Hellgren who heads the ENT Department at the Sahlgrenska Academy to tell us a bit about how to succeed with this and also to give a few tips on the way.
At the beginning of June a 3-day Nordic Ear, Nose and Throat conference was held in Gothenburg at Gothia Towers. With over 700 delegates this year’s conference was a record-breaker. It has been held every third year for more than 100 years and every fifteenth year it takes place in Sweden, but Gothenburg has only been the venue on one previous occasion.
”That the Nobel laureate Professor Arvid Carlsson was able to attend as an inspirer was particularly fortunate,” says Johan Hellgren, head of the department for Ear, Nose and Throat diseases at the Sahlgrenska Academy. Johan is also Chairman of The Nordic Association of Otorhinolaryngology, which hosted the conference, and was also part of the local organization committee which set up the event.
This year also saw participation by the specialist association of ear, nose and throat nurses (FÖNH). They celebrated their 30th anniversary this year and had a program slot in parallel with other slots.
Good forward planning is the Alpha and Omega
”We booked the conference premises through Göteborg & Co 4 years in advance. May-June is an intensive conference period and space is quickly snapped up. We acquired a conference organizer, a so-called PCO, by inviting tenders. It is important to interview their representatives to ensure that it is not only the price, but also a commonality of vision regarding the conference, which are the deciding factors. It is also important to construct a broad and energetic conference organization as well as to advertise the conference at every available opportunity, strongly and frequently.”
This year there were over 60 scientific contributions in the form of stands and many of them came from the Sahgrenska Academy’s own ENT Department. With the conference being held here they were able to make sure of inviting several of their own researchers as speakers, which placed a focus on, and drew attention to, their own research. The ENT clinic at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital was therefore also responsible for much of the conference logistics. With the meeting subsequently being as successful as it was, this created a positive impression of Gothenburg, the Gothenburg University and the research conducted at the Sahlgrenska Academy and the University Hospital.
”Thanks to all the able colleagues and their great efforts we experienced very few problems with the conference. A few speakers cancelled at a late planning stage and it took some time to find good replacements. The constantly growing number of enrolled participants meant that we had to constantly be aware of the size of the premises etc. One amusing anecdote concerns the fact that, conscious of the erratic Gothenburg weather, we ordered umbrellas for all the delegates….but there was no rain. Maybe something to bear in mind for ”appeasing” the weather gods.
Getting the media onside was a success
One of those taking part in the conference was Gunhildur Gudnadottir, a researcher at the Ear Nose and Throat diseases department at the Sahlgrenska Academy and the Sahlgrenska University Hospital. Her new study regarding cortisone nose-spray and snoring children was included in a session on how the Nordic countries investigate and treat these children.
”Contacts with the media proceeded very smoothly. Carina Holmberg at Ekot texted me and we arranged to meet at Sahlgrenska the next day when we did the interview. I tipped her about a patient who had been involved in a previous item on the same subject on Tv4 who she contacted later on. I was very happy about the feature and felt that we had profiled the most important aspects of our research results, namely that the cortisone spray is a good first line of treatment for snoring and sleep apnea in children and the fact that, in many cases, it is possible to avoid surgery,” says Gunhildur.
– Kontakten med media gick väldigt smidigt. Carina Holmberg på Ekot kontaktade mig via sms och vi bestämde en tid att träffas på Sahlgrenska nästa dag då vi gjorde intervjun. Jag tipsade henne om en patient som varit med i ett tidigare inslag om samma ämne på Tv4 som hon sedan kontaktade. Jag blev väldigt nöjd med inslaget och tyckte att vi fått fram den viktigaste punkten med våra forskningsresultat, nämligen att kortisonnässpray är ett bra förstahandsbehandlingsalternativ för snarkningar och sömnapné hos barn och att man, i många fall kan slippa operation, berättar Gunhildur.
Research result which produced an immediate effect
Gunhildur and her research group’s reports attracted considerable attention and she felt that it was good to have the opportunity to discuss their research results with interested parties during the speakers meet-and-greet.
”Many colleagues felt that it was interesting and several said that they would start to use cortisone spray to a greater extent from now on when treating SDB in children.”
Positive news is also news
Johan Hellgren perceives that in the current media flow there is too little space given to the positive aspects whereby medical representatives, i.e. professionally active researchers and healthcare personnel, are brought together to discuss current matters such as future analyses and new treatment recommendations. Unfortunately it is primarily the political healthcare decisions and news about crises in the world which are focused on by the media, in his opinion.
”The Institution’s webmaster and I were, instead, able to talk about which new research results we should be able to present to a wider media public and, in the end, it was Gunhildur Gudnadottir’s research into nasal sprays for snoring children which we went for. Together with the Sahlgrenska Academy’s communications departments we then, as we said, made speedy contact with the national media via Ekot,” says Johan Hellgren.
Forum for the exchange of both knowledge and delight
Several of the delegates we spoke with felt that the conference had been very successful, with a good scientific and social program. And it is, of course, always good to meet up with colleagues from the entire Nordic region. The exhibitors, too, of which there were many, felt that the conference had been fruitful.
”When our ‘own’ Nobel laureate Arvid Carlsson attended the Nordic Conference and made a very pleasant and highly appreciated appearance, I believe that there were many who, like me, felt that time had stood still for a moment and that we were given a great image memento to take back with us. In the wake of the meeting it is great to feel that everything went so well. There was a lot of work by a lot of people, but it was definitely worthwhile!” says Johan Hellgren in conclusion.
Link to the Sveriges Radio Ekot item
Link to the ear, nose and ear diseases department: http://ent.gu.se/
Link to the conference: https://www.mkon.nu/onh
TEXT: SUSANNE LJ WESTERGREN
PHOTO: TOMMY HOLL