Haag-Streit Ambassador's Event

Shaping the future of European ophthalmology education: Insights from the Haag-Streit Ambassador's Event

Recently, during the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons (ESCRS) conference, renowned ophthalmologists, educators, and mentors from across Europe gathered for a transformative event hosted by Haag-Streit in the elegant surroundings of the Palais Daun-Kinsky in Vienna. The objective of this extraordinary gathering was to explore the challenges and opportunities in ophthalmic education and contribute to shaping the future of education in European ophthalmology programs. The event featured a line-up of highly respected speakers who shared their expertise and insights on ophthalmic education. Host of the evening was distinguished ophthalmologist and cataract surgery mentor, Dr. Ivo Ferreira.


Disparities in training opportunities

The central theme of the event revolved around the critical issue that many aspiring ophthalmologists in Europe face – the lack of access to adequate surgical training and mentors. A study recently published in Nature’s Eye journal highlighted that 42% of European ophthalmology residents are dissatisfied with the surgical skills they had achieved. The data from an online survey conducted among 214 European ophthalmology residents and recent graduates from 36 European countries caused quite a stir in the ophthalmic education community and was referred to frequently throughout the evening. The study highlights significant variability in training competencies, especially in surgical skills, among residents from different countries. The survey also revealed that among fourth-year residents, a significant portion had not performed essential surgeries, with percentages ranging from 31.3% to 46.9%, for example.


Advocating a harmonized curriculum and collaboration across Europe

Dr. Artemis Matsou from UK provided a comprehensive overview of the challenges and opportunities in European surgical training, drawing from her own experiences as a trainee, when she left her native Greece to pursue her dreams of becoming an ophthalmologist in the UK. Dr. Matsou emphasized the lack of standardized ophthalmology training across countries and advocated a harmonized European curriculum, mentorship programs and simulator training, as well as assessments and ongoing professional development. International agreements and collaboration between ophthalmic societies and policymakers could ensure a consistent training quality.


Why European surgical education needs to embrace a holistic surgical training model

Dr. Atanas Bogoev from Germany discussed an innovative approach to enhance surgical training in Europe. Traditional surgical training, which relies on an apprenticeship model, faces limitations, such as variability of exposure, lack of standardization and ethical issues. Bogoev endorsed a holistic training model combining mentorship, wet lab training and simulation. Embracing this new model could create a more effective, efficient, and engaging learning environment for trainees and mentors resulting in reduced learning curves and better patient outcomes.


The ESCRS Moving Simulator Initiative

Dr. Alja Črnej from Slovenia introduced the ESCRS Moving Simulator Initiative, emphasizing its role in providing European residents with virtual reality and mentorship support. The project envisions accessible and standardized training for future ophthalmologists. The benefits of simulation training referred to by Dr. Črnej include reduced early training complications, enhanced self-assurance, skill tracking, and a positive impact on patient care. The ESCRS program offers a customized curriculum on the Eyesi Surgical simulator covering skills like anti-tremor and phacoemulsification, including performance assessment and certificates. The simulator will visit multiple European countries and will be hosted by the national societies.


Best practice in Denmark: Enhancing skill acquisition through simulation

Dr. Ann Sofia Thomsen from Denmark highlighted the effective incorporation of simulation into Copenhagen surgical training programs and the significant improvements in skill acquisition it has brought about. In Denmark, the ophthalmic subspecialty program for cataract surgery now requires its residents to successfully complete a comprehensive cataract training curriculum on the Eyesi Surgical simulator, reaching a high threshold of 600 out of 700 points, before they are permitted to enter the operating room. This decision was informed by prior research and evidence demonstrating that deliberate "overtraining" contributes to improved skill retention, making it a crucial element in their training approach.


Live from Vienna to Mexico City

One of the highlights of the evening was a live remote teaching demonstration that bridged the geographical divide between Vienna and Mexico City. Dr. Ivo Ferreira from Mexico, through a live link, provided instructions while his resident carried out a training session on a simulator. The results were projected onto a big screen in front of the dinner audience, showcasing the power of technology to connect mentors and trainees across borders. The demonstration emphasized how residents can now gain access to surgical mentors through the innovative use of simulation technology.


In conclusion, the Haag-Streit Ambassador's event in Vienna brought together luminaries in the field of ophthalmic training to address a crucial issue facing aspiring ophthalmologists in Europe – access to quality education and mentorship. The overarching message from these seasoned professionals was clear: everyone should be afforded access to teaching, training, and mentoring opportunities, regardless of their geographical location. The event underscored the importance of leveraging simulation technology to bridge the gap, ensuring that all residents across Europe have equal opportunities to excel in their careers.