For many intensivists and trainees the end of May was enjoyed in Sydney, in the winter
sunshine, attending our College’s Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM). This year’s meeting
followed the theme “A Gut Reaction”, covering topics from the gut in critical illness, to
liver failure, to pancreatitis, to feeding, and many subjects in between. Not only is
organising such a large-scale event a challenge in itself, providing topics that are
clinically relevant and engaging to a discerning audience can also be a difficult task.
Every year, the CICM ASM seems to improve its delivery of such meetings, with
international speakers, diverse speciality speakers and addressing the gender balance
among its speakers.
This year saw the inaugural Trainee Symposium take place the day before the main
ASM begun. A vision from new fellows and trainees, the Symposium was designed for
trainees of the College to attend a day full of trainee-specific presentations; from Part I
and Part II exam tactics to improving your non-clinical portfolio. At this symposium, of
the 14 speakers throughout the day, 11 were female intensivists or trainees. The first
symposium was well attended and set to highlight the importance of such sessions at
our future ASMs.
Moving on to the ASM itself, day one set a great scene, with exceptional talks from
visiting international speakers Professor Julia Wendon, from King’s College in London,
discussing acute liver failure and Professor Lars Lundell, from Stockholm in Sweden,
discussing GI surgery and critical care. The standard of all presentations was again
exceptional and very relevant to critical care management in today’s world.
The following two days didn’t disappoint either, with great presentations from Dr Stephen
Warrillow on acute liver failure and the management thereof and from Professor Geoff
Isbister discussing paracetamol toxicity and its management. Of note on day two was
the Short Paper Presentation session, chaired by Dr Priya Nair. Ten 3-minute
presentations gave juniors the opportunities to present their work. Of the ten presenters,
7 were women and of those 7, two of them were medical students, mentored by Dr
Bronwyn Avard, Canberra’s ICU Director. I found it refreshing and encouraging that our
doctors-to-be are being given these opportunities and the encouragement from female
role models at the height of their careers. I wish there had been more opportunities like
these for myself when I was at medical school. To have the support, encouragement
and drive to present at a national meeting at the very beginning of their careers is
something to be proud of.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and it seemed a fitting end to attend
the ASM dinner on the Saturday night and watch Professor John Myburgh be presented
with the CICM Medal of Achievement. His oration had his audience in tears and
demonstrated such humility, honesty and dedication that we all took something home
with us that night. His address acknowledged the contribution of women in intensive
care and the need for gender balance and diversity within our speciality. It was inspiring
and thought provoking. His mention of Ubuntu, the African concept that “I am who I am
because of you”, is something we could all do to remember.
So, in the words of John Myburgh, “contribute to humanity, leave a footprint”.