January 05, 2016
4 min read
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EMYO showcases unique program for young ophthalmologists

The 2nd European Meeting of Young Ophthalmologists will be held in Oviedo, Spain, on June 24 and 25.

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Ignacio Rodriguez, MD, PhD, is a Spanish ophthalmologist and currently a glaucoma fellow in Nottingham, U.K. In an interview, Ignacio shares with us details of the upcoming 2nd European Meeting of Young Ophthalmologists in Oviedo, Spain, and also discusses his experience undergoing a fellowship abroad. For more details on the EMYO, including how to register (spaces are strictly limited), visit www.oviedoemyo.com.

Anthony P. Khawaja, PhD, FRCOphth
Chair of the SOE Young Ophthalmologists committee

Khawaja: We are all excited about the 2nd European Meeting of Young Ophthalmologists (EMYO). Tell us how you got involved.

Ignacio Rodriguez

Rodriguez: In 2014 I participated in the 1st EMYO in Porto, Portugal, as an invited speaker. There, given the success of that new meeting, the SOE YOs Committee, the local Portuguese Committee and Thea Pharmaceuticals offered me the possibility of organizing a second edition in Spain. After letting Spanish National YOs Representative Luis Fernandez-Vega, MD, and the Spanish Society of Ophthalmology know, the proposal was kindly accepted, and thus this journey that will take us 2 years of meticulous preparation began. We appreciate the constant support from every involved group, and we are looking forward to receiving YOs in Oviedo this summer.

Khawaja: What can participants of the EMYO expect from the program?

Rodriguez: I appreciate this question because the members of the Organizing Committee are especially proud of the scientific program. We have spent more than a year designing it, and the final version includes 40 invited speakers from almost 20 different countries all around Europe. The aim of the program for the 2nd EMYO is to develop an “Update in Ophthalmology,” including not only the latest news about diagnostic devices, medical therapies and surgical techniques, but also some basic and useful topics for beginners concerning every subspecialty.

Khawaja: What is the mission of the EMYO over and above local YO meetings?

Rodriguez: Despite its recent creation, there is no doubt that the EMYO is a different conference. It is our own meeting, the meeting for every YO in Europe. The EMYO allows an active participation. Every participant can submit a wide variety of abstracts, including poster presentations, videos and case reports presentations. Another lead issue is proximity between speakers and the audience. We think that information may be most helpful when it comes from a colleague of similar age and experience. In essence, we have tried to keep the philosophy of the congress since its first edition in 2014: “By YOs for YOs.” What is more, it will allow helpful international networking opportunities among YOs, which are hardly achievable in other local meetings.

Khawaja: What are some of the touristic highlights of Oviedo?

Rodriguez: Oviedo is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. Among its touristic highlights you will find the historic city center, the cathedral and the fantastic landscape of northern Spain, including amazing mountains and beautiful beaches, about 20 minutes away by car. Local people are extremely nice and kind, and food is delicious and famed all around the country. You cannot miss the famous Palacio de Congresos by Calatrava, where the EMYO gala dinner will take place.

Khawaja: Now, something more about yourself. You did your residency in Spain. How was it structured?

Rodriguez: I completed my residency at the Hospital Clinico San Carlos in Madrid, Spain, which is one of the most prestigious centers for training in ophthalmology in my country. Spanish residency takes 4 years, including excellent training in clinical and surgical skills in all subspecialties, as well as good opportunities for scientific development, possibilities of publications and good structures for teaching sessions. There are not any specific exams at the end of the training program, but the EBOD exam is becoming more popular.

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Khawaja: You are currently doing a fellowship abroad. How is this going?

Rodriguez: To be honest, it is an amazing opportunity for me. Ophthalmology departments in U.K. are absolutely well-prepared for training and have the best structures and programs for it. Clinical fellowship programs include an important surgical component, and I realize I am improving day by day. In addition, I am currently involved in several new research projects concerning my field of interest, glaucoma, so I am pretty excited about that. In terms of personal life, I miss my family and friends, although I am in constant touch with them. Not to mention that without their support, I would have never started such a phase abroad.

Khawaja: How did you organize such a fellowship, and what advice do you have for other YOs looking to do the same?

Rodriguez: Organizing a fellowship abroad in not an easy task and requires specific planning in advance. In fact, my boss from my hospital in Spain encouraged me to do it, and I decided to apply for my current job half a year before starting. I was contacted for an interview with my current bosses in the U.K., and 1 week later I was accepted for the post. A full application form and a complete curriculum vitae do help, but performing well during the interview is crucial.

Paperwork is possibly the most complex step of the process, and it takes months to get everything arranged. Therefore, my advice for other YOs would be to start the process early to avoid a stressful rush as the start date approaches. As I mentioned before, family support remains important, especially when you come from abroad. In the end, the long and laborious process is well worth it. Undoubtedly, a fellowship is such an excellent supplementary training experience that I strongly recommend it.

Khawaja: Do you think we should harmonize training standards across Europe, and do you think this will ever be achievable?

Rodriguez: On the one hand, the idea of a standardized training in Europe would be excellent. This would allow a common practice among all physicians and facilitate the movement of professionals across the continent. Indeed, many YOs have been working hard together for years to achieve it.

On the other hand, each European country has its own idiosyncrasies, policies and health systems, which are often beyond the reach of national societies and colleges of ophthalmology.

Whether this scenario will be achievable or not is a matter that should be discussed. Therefore, in the 2nd EMYO on June 24 and 25, an exciting round table dedicated to this issue will be held. It will be a unique opportunity to share experiences and possible suggestions not only from YOs, but from the members of different international committees, education boards and even the European Society of Ophthalmology.

Disclosure: No products or companies that would require financial disclosure are mentioned in this article.