With just a few weeks remaining until the opening of EURETINA 2021 virtual, organizers are promising a congress that will offer a rich and varied mix of science and education covering all the latest topics in retinal research from leading experts in the field.
“We are very excited to be able to offer delegates a first-rate meeting which this year will extend to four days of content across five parallel channels,” said Prof. Frank Holz, EURETINA President. “This year marks the Society’s 21st annual congress and our second in a virtual format. We hope to build on the success of last year’s virtual congress which attracted over 8,000 delegates and generated a lot of positive feedback from participants,” he added.
Scheduled to take place over four days from 9-12 September 2021, EURETINA 2021 Virtual will feature four keynote lectures, 16 EURETINA sessions, 22 symposia, 44 instructional courses and a dedicated Young Retina Specialists (YOURS) programme, among other highlights.
As Prof. Sebastian Wolf, a member of the Executive Board sees it, the key to EURETINA’s success lies in the Society’s continued drive to innovate and serve the needs of its members. The annual congress is a major part of that outreach, he said.
“The congress has always sought to showcase cutting-edge research in retina while also providing quality education through courses and wet labs. It is a formula that has worked very well, enabling delegates to obtain a comprehensive overview of important developments in the field of retina via the main sessions and symposia, as well as participating in specific courses to improve their surgical skills,” he said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic making in-person meetings impractical for the moment, EURETINA has worked hard to ensure that the transition to a virtual congress has not compromised the quality of the content and courses available to delegates.
“The format worked very well for our first online congress in 2020 and we take a lot of encouragement from the fact that over 8,000 attendees joined us for that meeting,” said Prof Wolf. “When we analysed the data in detail, we noted that many of the sessions had a live audience of between 1,000 and 2,000 participants, but the number went up to over 5,000 people in the weeks after the sessions when people watched the sessions through the on-demand service. I think this is an excellent feature that allows people to watch the sessions in their own time and is one of the advantages of the online format,” he said.
In addition to the regular EURETINA sessions, courses and symposia, Prof Wolf highlighted a new addition to the programme this year in the form of a live studio discussion.
“This is something new for the 2021 meeting. We will have some members of the board of EURETINA as well as some invited speakers who will join us in a studio for a live panel discussion. The idea is to provide a daily recap and some added perspective of some of the highlights and key talking points from each day of the meeting,” he said.
Prof Wolf also welcomed the continued participation of the Young Retina Specialists (YOURS) in the EURETINA programme with a packed one-day YOURS programme scheduled for Saturday 11 September.
“They have become a very important part of the Society and we are very happy to see them playing such an active part in the annual congress. After all, these young retinal specialists represent the future of our profession and it is important to have them involved for the vitality of EURETINA and our field,” he said.
In addition to planning for the annual congress, EURETINA has also been busy ramping up its digital presence, said Prof. Wolf.
“We have a new website with a lot of interesting content and that will be expanded in the coming months. We are also a lot more active on social media which is very important these days. This digital transformation was partly a response to the COVID-19 pandemic but it also fits in with our longer-term plan to reach out to a global audience and provide the latest in retinal news, education and other resources for our members and the wider retinal community,” he said.
Prof. Wolf stresses, however, that this enhanced digital presence will not signal the end to in-person meetings in the future.
“I don’t think we can ever replace the live format for our annual congress. It is so important to be able to meet colleagues, to interact and to socialise together. There really is no substitute for that. My own experience is that I have learnt some of the most interesting things in between sessions by talking to colleagues over a coffee or a beer. Hopefully our congress in Hamburg in 2022 will be a face-to-face meeting and this is what we are planning for at the moment,” he concluded.