‘The first focus for the industry will have to be on survival’

By Taco J Blokhuis, MD, PhD, Chairman 6th ESTROT Congress


Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you have decided to postpone the 6th ESTROT (European Society of Tissue Regeneration in Orthopaedics and Traumatology) Congress in Maastricht, Netherlands, to March 2021. How will this decision affect ESTROT as a society, and the Congress?

Obviously the impact of postponing the congress for a relatively small society is substantial. It was, however, a decision that was inevitable. We feel strong enough as a society to endure these difficult times, and given the coherency in our group and the clear focus we have, we are confident we will overcome. For the Congress itself the decision will have little effect, apart from the date. Time will tell what the consequences for the Congress will be.

Will there be any drastic changes made to the Congress next year?

The Congress will be essentially the same. Concept and program will remain largely unchanged, apart from several speakers who were unavailable in the previous version who are now available, and vice versa.

Would you consider hosting a virtual event instead of cancelling the 2020 Congress?

We have indeed considered a virtual event instead of the Congress itself. The ESTROT Board has decided not to do so for two reasons. First, there is a surge in virtual events at this moment. Many organizers are diverting into virtual events, and although some of these are excellent, many are not. Technical requirements can be challenging, and timing and format are issues to work out carefully instead of rushing into. The second reason is the interaction with the audience. The content of the Congress is expert-level surgical reasoning, and discussing difficult cases with the audience with all different aspects that come into play is in our view achieved in a face-to-face setting. Obviously, webinars can achieve some of this, but not as optimal as a ‘live’ meeting. For the next version of the Congress, we are considering offering a virtual option, where attendees can register and participate in a virtual manner. This option is at this point still under investigation.  

Going back to large in-person events will take some time to get used to. Are you concerned this may affect the number of Congress attendees?

Yes, definitely. Given the uncertainty of the whole pandemic situation, it is unclear what will happen to the number of attendees. There is only one way to find out, so let’s see what happens. In addition, if we accomplish the option of virtual participation, the number of attendees is even more uncertain.

The MICE industry has been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. How do you think this will change our industry, and what measures can be taken, in your opinion?

The first focus for the industry will have to be on survival. A second wave with extensive measures would be devastating to the industry, as it would be to many other aspects of today’s society. Improvement of virtual options seems a logical step, although several limitations have to be taken into account, as indicated above. In general, for the medical profession, congresses are useful for exchange of knowledge. Interaction and discussion will lead to new ideas, new insights and new options. This is beneficial for our patients and therefore a good reason to restart congresses. Let’s hope the circumstances will allow us to do so.