Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention, and the numerous challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have inspired much inventive thinking. One example is how faculty of DMU’s College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery (CPMS), the University’s continuing medical education (CME) department and the leaders of BESPA Global, a company dedicated to improving patient care through education and advancement in medical science, partnered to organize and offer a virtual conference that allowed podiatric physicians to earn CME credits.
“Many in-person conferences have been canceled, yet providers still need and want to maintain their CME,” says Sean Grambart, D.P.M., FACFAS, assistant dean of academic affairs for CPMS and a BESPA partner for several years. “BESPA is made up of foot and ankle surgeons – D.P.M.s, D.O.s, M.D.s – from across the country. One of its group’s emphasis is education. The partnering of DMU and BESPA seemed like a natural fit to deliver high-quality CME.”
In late spring, Dr. Grambart, Lisa Viele, M.B.A., BESPA Global president, and Christopher Newell, M.B.A., BESPA Global chief operating officer, began discussing virtual education possibilities. They brought Vanessa Gray, M.H.A., CMP, CHCP, director of continuing medical education at DMU, into their discussions. The result: Foot & Ankle Symposium & Surgical Techniques, or FASST, a virtual three-day conference in July that was attended by 120 podiatrists, orthopedic foot and ankle surgeons, other osteopathic and allopathic physicians, athletic trainers and physical therapists as well as medical students and residents. They represented 29 states from coast to coast.
“Dr. Grambart was very familiar with the DMU continuing medical education department, and we called Vanessa Gray to discuss the possibility of hosting the event in order to award CME credit,” says Christopher Newell. “The infrastructure was already in place at DMU, and we did not have to start from scratch. BESPA Global had the faculty for the course – we are nine surgeons and two managers – and we needed the expertise that Vanessa provided to us to put on our first course.”
The event supported a goal of the strategic plans of the University and CPMS to provide CME opportunities to the medical profession and DMU alumni. Other bonuses: DMU students who participated got to interact with nationally recognized, multidisciplinary speakers during the conference’s mix of didactic presentations, case studies and panel discussions, and there were zero Zoom issues.
“I think the success came from both the audience and the speakers,” Dr. Grambart says. “Although it was virtual, it was still engaging. One of the keys to virtual conferences is to allow for discussion between everyone involved.”
In their post-event evaluations, several participants praised the conference for its content, format and delivery method. Ninety percent of responding participants said they would still use virtual courses such as FASST to receive continuing medical education. The vast majority also “completely” agreed that FASST accomplished its stated objectives relating to pathology of the foot and ankle, surgical management of lower limb issues and post-operative recovery of Achilles tendon injuries.
Anecdotally, participants commented positively about the symposium’s “excellent” speakers, “beneficial” case analyses, “thought-provoking” discussions among panelists and “really informative” lectures. Podiatric medical students appreciated the opportunity to learn early in their medical education. One participant from a state that gives CME credits only for in-person events expressed appreciation that the state had waived that rule due to COVID-19, allowing the participant to earn credits for the event.
“Top to bottom, this was gold,” commented one participant.
Given FASST’s success, the organizers plan to host another CME course in early November. Information will be posted on DMU’s CME website.