There were fire twirlers and tribal drummers. Confetti rained down on khaki-clad heroes to the rapturous applause of a live audience. No, this wasn’t the epic grand-finale of a reality TV show. It was the opening ceremony of smaccGOLD, setting the scene for a conference unlike any other.
SMACC stands for “social media and critical care”, and the Gold Coast version was the follow-up to the inaugural SMACC in Sydney last year. Although ostensibly a critical care conference, it also acts as the flagship conference for the FOAM community (Free Open Access Medical education), combining a cutting edge academic program with innovative education techniques and modern technology. It is a truly international, interdisciplinary meeting, with emergency physicians, anaesthetists, intensivists, paramedics, rural docs, nurses and students coming together from all corners of the globe.
This is NOT the usual top down education handed down by lofty academic institutes to their humble followers. Rather, SMACC is the creation of a bunch of passionate front-line clinicians who are united by their belief in FOAM and quality care. The affiliates are not universities, colleges or hospitals, but websites, blogs and podcasts. It is the ultimate democratisation of education, where students, trainees and specialists from all disciplines stand side by side to share their knowledge and discuss ideas.
As a very occasional emergency doctor still grappling with the basics of resuscitation and trauma care, the hard core clinical topics mostly went over my head. However, there was more than enough juicy content to keep this FOAM-enthusiast / educationalist / critical care novice very happy.
Some highlights for me were:
- Victoria Brazil talking about medical tribes and some tips on how to cross diplomatic borders
- Tony Brown’s scathing critique of the peer reviewed journal industry
- Lauren Westafer’s insightful look into the educational credentials of FOAM
- Casey Parker’s presentation on empathy in medicine
- Cliff Reid’s passionate talk about when (not) to stop resuscitation
- Michelle Johnston’s creative writing workshop
- Grace Leo’s workshop on engaging presentations – no more excuses for death-by-powerpoint!
There were also a number of presentations which I didn’t get to see but were so popular that they triggered mini Twitter meltdowns. They included topics such as the dying child, laughter and swearing in medicine, paediatric pearls and chronic pain in ED. I can’t wait to see them when the videos are released.
Looking at that topic list it’s remarkable in that the so-called “soft topics” of medicine were front and centre alongside the more sexy procedural topics. Communication, teamwork, human factors and self-reflection are vital in the delivery of quality patient-centred care, no matter what clinical tribe you’re from. I love the way that SMACC strives to challenge the status quo, to question everything, to make us the best damn clinicians we can possibly be, and to help others do the same by the sharing of collective wisdom.
This was summed up nicely by Simon Carly with this Maya Angelou quote; “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Although the content was certainly inspiring, the real gold was to be found in new friendships. I had met only a handful of fellow delegates before the event, but felt like I already knew dozens more through the power of Twitter. It was absolutely fantastic to put faces to names and it really did feel like a huge reunion of friends you just hadn’t met yet. Despite our different backgrounds, there was a commonality of purpose that made it really easy to strike up a conversation with absolutely anyone. I feel privileged to now count some of the smartest and most thoughtful medicos from around the world as peers and true friends.
The conference ended as w0nderfully and ridiculously as it began; a Star Wars themed team simulation challenge with Hans Solo, Jabba the Hutt, Darth Maul and friends as judges. But as with all of SMACC, the fun and games came with serious learning messages, leaving us with lots of things to think about as we said our sad goodbyes.
As we disperse back to our own corners of the globe, and recover from the misery of #smaccdown, we are left to ponder what lessons we can take away with us. My personal challenges are:
- to consider how innovative ways of delivering medical education could translate to general practice
- to take the cutting edge concepts in resuscitation care and apply them to the labour ward setting
- to keep listening and learning as much as possible from my critical care colleagues to improve my performance in the emergency department
- to spread the word of FOAM as far and wide as possible
- and, just maybe, to think about bowing to peer pressure* to create some O&G FOAM content
See you next year in Chicago for #smaccUS !
In the meantime, here are some other great SMACC blog reflections to help ease the withdrawal symptoms:
- You gotta have love – Tim Leeuwenburg from KI Docs
- Friendship, Motivation and Altruism @ smaccGOLD – Rob Rogers from iTeachEM
- smaccGOLD: Lessons from Down Under – Eve Purdy from Manu et Corde
- #SMACCGOLD – It hurts … – Damien Roland from The Rolobot Rambles
- Lessons Learned from smaccGOLD – Alan Batt from Prehospital Research
- smaccGOLD from the Student Paramedic’s Eyes – Jess from Prehospital Research
- The End is just the Beginning – Chris Nickson from Life in the Fastlane
- Social Media and Critical Care – Salim Rezie from R.E.B.E.L EM
- SMACCGOLD – Punk Rock, Paeds, Palliation and People – Jesse Spurr from Injectable Orange
- (Yet more) reflections on SMACC gold – Andy from Emergency Medicine Ireland
- #SMACCgold reflections – Ian Beardsell, now of St Emlyn’s
- And checkout thetopend.org for some great SMACC Jellybeans (short interviews) from Doug Lynch
*I’m looking at you, Tim!