Summary: Reflecting on a busy month Professor Harden gives an overview of the abstracts submitted for AMEE 2012 before focussing on the successful SIMEC 2012 conference. Description: A longer blog as it covers four rather than two weeks.

Work on the programme for the AMEE 2012 conference and travel to and participation in meetings has resulted in a particularly busy month for me. We received more than 2300 abstracts for the AMEE meeting in Lyon in August and each has had three reviewers. The standard of submissions was even higher than last year and regrettably it has not been possible to find a slot for all in the programme. I look forward to hearing the presentations. Some of the abstracts submitted did not appear to do justice to the study completed, with optimum use not being made of the different sections in the abstract. Some titles did not reflect the work reported and in some too much space was allocated to the background, while in others the reason for the study was not made clear. Abstracts where there was some evidence to support the conclusions were more impressive. In some, the take away message did not appear to have a strong generalizability. A few authors submitted multiple submissions on the same theme. I suspect that one stronger submission rather than salami slicing would have been more effective. It is always of value I believe to let someone who has not been involved with the study or the work read the abstract before it is submitted and take into consideration their comments or views.

Following my return from the medical education meeting in Boston, referred to in my last blog, I had to depart almost immediately for a short visit to Riyadh to the Al-Imam Medical College. Among other activities there, I was looking at the final arrangements for the Saudi International Medical Education Conference to be held later in the month in Riyadh. While there I was interviewed along with the Dean, Dr Khalid Bin Abdulrahman, for 45 minutes on live television, by two young ladies. There was no rehearsal for the interview but the interviewers were well prepared. The previous item on the programme was a cooking demonstration!

On return from Riyadh I attended a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the American University of the Caribbean in St Maarten. There are no direct flights from the UK and I travelled through Miami. Unlike with international transits through Heathrow, even with an international connection,one has to immigrate into the USA which may take an hour and a half in Miami, collect luggage and then check in for the next flight to St Maarten. AUC has been taken over by DeVry who have an excellent record with their vision and with education management and administration and as a group encourage innovations in the field. They also own Ross Medical School and I was interested to see that Ross probably have more papers submitted for AMEE 2012 than any other medical school. Ron Testa has done a good job as Dean of the Early Years Programme at St Maarten and the first time pass rate in the USMLE is now comparable with schools in the USA. It will be interesting to see developments at AUC under the new management. They will be looking for a new Dean appointment to integrate early and later years of the programme.

The 9th April saw the start of the new 12 week online ESME course which I am leading with the groups facilitated by Trevor Gibbs and John Dent and the new ESME online Leadership course led by Stewart Mennin. We have 68 enrolled in the ESME online course with 6 modules each of 2 weeks. Each module has a Wimba delivered live session and asynchronous discussion round a problem related to the topic of the module. Each individual also has a personal assignment which has to be completed if they are to receive the AMEE Certificate in Medical Education. We have also put together a useful resource pack for use during the course and for later reference. The next Wimba presentation is on the 7th May and the following one from Ottawa on 21st May, where I will be for a meeting of the 2014 Ottawa planning committee.

The Saudi International Medical Education Conference (SIMEC 2012) took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from the 22nd - 26th April. This proved a very successful meeting in an excellent location in the Intercontinental Hotel in Riyadh. The audio visual and other facilities were impressive. Thirty five leading international medical educationists contributed to the meeting as invited speakers. We cannot afford to support anything like this number at AMEE meetings! Contributors were from Australia, Japan, Taiwan, South America, USA, Canada, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The themes of the meeting were curriculum planning and development, teaching and learning, assessment of the student and the teacher, international dimensions, and innovating in medical education. I was interested that during the meeting three references were made to a paper published in the December supplement to Academic Medicine 2006, where I described a model that looked at students, local and international and teachers, local and international. This highlighted the move to international students, international teachers and transnational medical education. Madalena Patricio gave an interesting paper as to why schools should become involved with international dimensions to their education programme. On the same topic David Wilkinson, the Dean from the University of Queensland, Australia described an international collaboration between the University of Queensland, Maastricht, National University of Singapore and Queens University Canada, whereby the schools will share resources and curricula. This will be a fascinating innovation to follow. The University of Queensland already have an arrangement whereby a class of students from the USA receive the first part of their training in Australia and complete their training in a centre in the USA.

Brian Hodges gave a superb talk at the meeting on the session on innovation. I asked myself why it was so good and so well received by the audience. Contributing factors I think was that it told a well thought out and powerful story, it was well illustrated, some interesting ideas, education principles and challenges along with practical suggestions were presented and the talk featured personal examples. Not least was his personal charisma and sincerity which came across well.

A taskforce of about 70 students assisted throughout the conference and not only attended but contributed to the sessions impressively. An interesting feature of the meeting was the interactive multi-touch e-Poster boards. This is a very real breakthrough in poster presentations and the potential is enormous. We will be implementing this approach at AMEE 2012 in Lyon for some of the posters. Conference participants can see more details, including video clips etc., relating to different sections of a poster, can email the poster and can rate and comment on the poster for other viewers to note. We will be writing later this week to the authors whose posters have been selected for multi-touch interactive e-Poster board presentation at AMEE with more details.

During the meeting the AMEE stand in the exhibition area was busy and much interest was expressed in the work of the association. The supplement to Medical Teacher based on work in Saudi was published in April and conference participants were provided with a copy. My new book Essential Skills for a Medical Teacher: an introduction to teaching and learning in medicine published by Elsevier was launched at the meeting and the 50 copies available at the Elsevier stand were sold out quickly by the morning of the second day of the meeting.

In the final section of the meeting five of the international contributors and a student, Abdul Rahim Turkistany, from Al-Imam University summed up for them the highlights of the meeting. It was interesting to see the different approach used by the presenters. Brownie Anderson summarising highlights on the theme of Curriculum Planning and Development used a Google display where the words and the size related to the frequency of the terms used in the programme titles and her notes. Ahmad Fahal in reviewing the theme Teaching and Learning, provided a thorough analysis of the range of presentations in the different sessions during the meeting with the sessions illustrated by photographs from the different sessions. Salah Kassab describing the theme Assessment of the Student and the Teacher, selected some of, for him, the key presentations made at the meeting and highlighted the work presented in these sessions. Tom Aretz in looking at the International Dimensions provided a framework for a consideration of internationalisation in medical education and Niv Patil looked at some of the principles arising and conclusions relating to Innovating in Medical Education.  These different approaches were of interest to me given we have a similar challenge in the spotlight closing session at the AMEE conference.

During the conference we had a workshop on the new ASPIRE initiative which was fully subscribed and I was pleased with the reception received to the initiative.   A number of schools have already offered to serve as pilot schools and more details will be appearing within the next two weeks on the AMEE and ASPIRE websites. An informal meeting of the ASPIRE board was also held. The ASPIRE initiative recognises excellence in medical education and will be formally launched at AMEE 2012 in Lyon.

Trevor Gibbs and John Dent, who were both at the meeting, will be writing a further note about the papers at the meeting and this will be published in MedEdWorld.

Lyon featured as a destination in the April issue of Business Traveller. Thinking of AMEE it was interesting to read that not only is Lyon recognised for its culinary prowess but that as France’s second city it is also on a mission to become one of the world’s premier centres for research and innovation. In 2011 Lyon was ranked as the eight most innovative city internationally alongside San Francisco, Toronto and New York.

While waiting at Miami airport on route to St Maarten I noted in the Miami Herald an article that highlighted the fact that formerly Internet start-ups first established a presence on the Web and then came up with a version for mobile devices. This is now reversed. For example, the mobile start-up Instagram commanded a $1 billion in a sale to Facebook. Mobile apps have attracted 10 per cent of the total investment dollars from US venture capital firms last year.

The answer to the puzzle from the last blog was that the keys hanging from the trees around the hotel complex and jungle were used by security guards to register on their portable device that on their patrol they had visited the point on their route where the key was located.

A new squirrel-related problem! I walk from Tay Park House where the AMEE office is based through the Botanic Gardens to the coffee shop for lunch. Today I noticed a metal cage approximately twelve inches by twelve inches by twelve inches suspended in a tree eight feet from the ground. What is its purpose?