“Let’s keep striving for the right balance”

Interview with Prof. Dr. Marc Coppens, President of the Belgian Association of Ambulatory Surgery

Prof. Dr. Marc Coppens, President of the Belgian Association of Ambulatory Surgery; photo: Belgian Association of Ambulatory Surgery

As the COVID-19 pandemic slowly subsides, you have decided to hold the14th Congress of the International Association for Ambulatory Surgery (IAAS) as a live event in Bruges where people can meet face to face again. What sparked this decision?

Organising a congress necessitates an appropriate business plan, as a doctor this is not what I am trained for. Our organising committee is a group of enthusiastic volunteers spending a lot of our spare time in preparing the event. We are convinced that an international congress is advantageous for sharing experience with international peers, not only through scientific lectures but through informal contacts as well, during breaks, social events. We all had and have difficult times during the COVID pandemic, but it is comforting to hear that our problems were similar and we hope to learn from each other’s creative solutions.

What will your event look like? Do you plan any major changes to the last Congress? And how many delegates do you expect?

The 14th International Congress of Ambulatory Surgery wants to bring surgeons, anesthetists, nurses, hospital managers together. The general theme of the event is: surgical day care for everyone, including the vulnerable patient; the elderly, children, cognitively impaired,… convinced as we are of the many benefits of recovering in your own home, surrounded by relatives and family. The congress offers lectures, workshops, poster presentations, social program just as ever before. We expect over 400 delegates.

Did you conduct virtual or hybrid events before? If you compare a virtual with a live event, how different are the planning and organization?

The IAAS, BAAS and NVDK organised virtual events during the peak of the pandemic. This offered the possibility to reach delegates from over the whole world and to have key-note speakers who need to spend minimal time for their lectures and don’t have to travel. It changes the financial consequences as travel expenses, hotel costs don’t matter. In the meantime many very reliable services are available for high tech virtual or hybrid events. However we hoped to be attractive as one of the first live events. However many health care workers are tired after the combat against COVID, still many health care workers are catching up with the backlog in medical care. Moreover the Ukraine crisis makes travelling uncertain and expensive. The increasing list of registrations is a hopeful and positive sign of the willingness of health care workers to recharge their professional batteries with a combination of lectures and contacts with peers who all have a warm heart for ambulatory surgery.

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 industry is an indispensable partner when you want to offer your delegates a nice venue, reasonable catering, high quality speakers. Industrial partners were rather reluctant to re-establish partnerships like they used to but were convinced after appreciating an impressive scientific program. Interaction from delegates and the industrial partners should be promoted by congress organizers although accreditation organisations are very strict, which makes a healthy equilibrium not always easy.  Let’s keep striving for the right balance.