Going to Vienna? Come Earlier, Stay Later
The 2023 ESCRS Annual Congress will ‘pack more punch’ on the opening and closing days.
Published: Thursday, June 1, 2023
Stuart Hales reports.
Boxing matches have caused many an eye injury, so a meeting of eye surgeons is not a place you would expect to find a boxing ring. But the ESCRS Programme Committee wanted to create a venue for speakers at the 2023 Annual Congress to debate issues while also allowing for audience interaction—and their solution was creating a stage in the middle of a room and placing a screen on the wall where audience questions can be displayed.
“They will be very vivid, interactive discussions,” says Dr Oliver Findl, president of the ESCRS and chair of the Programme Committee. “The speakers will be pro and con, just a couple of minutes on each topic, followed by a debate. People in the audience can write comments, and the comments will come up on a big screen and be fielded by a moderator.”
The boxing ring debates are just one of several interesting features awaiting attendees at the ESCRS 2023 Annual Congress in Vienna. Two other highlights are the “bookend days” of the Congress—Friday, 8 September, and Tuesday, 12 September—which will offer more educational content than in previous years.
“Focused Friday,” as it’s being called, will include Cornea Day, Glaucoma Day, and iNovation Day, as well as two sections of wet labs, the opening of the exhibit hall, and a symposium titled “Who owns ophthalmology?” Tuesday will feature the popular “Best of the Best” session, symposia on cataract surgery and postoperative complications, an IOL exchange workshop, and two free paper sessions.
“If attendees want to have the full impact of the Congress, they need to arrive on Thursday night and leave on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning,” Findl says. “Saturday and Sunday, like always, are fully packed. But on Friday and Monday, we’ve really tried to enhance the programme, and on Tuesday, we have the ‘Best of the Best’ session, which wraps everything up and puts it into perspective.”
Positioning for the future
Monday is being billed as “Smart & @ctive Monday” thanks to a “digital track” highlighted by symposia on the continents going digital, the digital operating room, automated robotic eye surgery, and the newest from artificial intelligence. Monday will also feature a mini-symposium on ophthalmic anaesthesiology, a full day of practice management workshops, a medical writing workshop, numerous instructional courses, and the ESCRS Heritage Lecture. Three 45-minute “brush-up” sessions focusing on glaucoma, retina, and oculoplastics are a novelty.
“Sometimes you have a patient who says, ‘I’m taking these new drops,’ and you think, ‘Oh, I should know about them,’ or she asks you, ‘I heard there’s a new drug coming out that is supposed to do this or that,’ and you think, ‘I should have heard about it, but it’s not my field,’” Findl says. “The idea of the brush-up sessions is to get on top of things again.”
A highlight of Saturday will be a “near-live” surgery session featuring challenging cases filmed by an ESCRS audiovisual team. The film crew visited surgeons in their home operating theatres using their own materials and equipment, and the filmed surgeons will be present at the session to discuss the cases.
“We’ll see more interesting and challenging cases than you usually have for live surgery sessions,” Findl says. “With live surgery sessions at conferences, you’re not in your own operating theatre, it’s not your patient, it’s not your equipment, maybe not even your nurse. Everything is new, everything is different. And then you have 2,000 people watching. So I think this new concept is ethically more sound and will be more educational.”
Another new concept is a series of “100-second pearls,” which will take place in the boxing arena and feature short videos with special tips for surgical techniques. Like the pro-con debates, the pearls will be interactive, with audience members sharing real-time comments.
“We’ve never done it before at ESCRS, and I’ve never seen it in ophthalmology,” Findl says. “It’s something new that we can probably position for the future.”
The pearls, the boxing ring debates, the near-live surgeries, the brush-up sessions, and other new features are critical to keeping the ESCRS Annual Congress fresh.
“After people have attended a few conferences, they think they’re pretty much all alike,” Findl says. “So we asked ourselves, what new things can we do for this one? What would draw somebody in for the first time if they’ve never been, or get them to come back if they’ve attended before? And I think they’re going to find a lot of things to like.”
What’s Vienna without a Ball?
Vienna is famous for its balls—more than 400 take place there during winter alone. The 2023 Vienna ball calendar will be a little more crowded than usual, as ESCRS will host one at its Annual Congress on Saturday, 9 September.
“Balls in Vienna are very different from balls elsewhere,” says ESCRS President Dr Oliver Findl, who lives and works in Vienna. “The men wear tuxedos and the women wear long gowns, and of course we’re known for the Viennese waltz.”
The ESCRS ball will be held at the Hofburg Palace, formerly the residence of the Habsburg monarchy. A live orchestra and operetta singers will provide the music, and a Quadrille, a traditional French dance, will take place at midnight. The entertainment will include a casino and a disco with a deejay, and several cash bars will be available.
“People will be able to walk around, meet and greet others, and dance, of course,” Findl says. “It’s a unique and memorable way to connect with peers and build relationships.”
In keeping with tradition, the ball will adhere to a strict dress code: floor-length evening gown, dinner jacket/tuxedo with bow tie or dark suit with bow tie, or formal national cos-tume (below the knee). No short skirts or dresses, cocktail dresses, or casual attire will be permitted.
“It’s really designed to keep the event elegant,” Findl says. “You can’t come in lederhosen or jeans—it’s black tie or white tie. But we will allow a dark suit or a formal national costume, such as from India or Africa.”
Attendees are encouraged to bring spouses and partners. Advance registration is required through the Congress registration portal.
“Vienna balls are quite amazing, and I think people will love it,” Findl says. “It’s an occasion that people will be talking about for a long time to come.”