Summary: Now that the AMEE 2016 Conference in Barcelona is over, Professor Harden considers the highs and lows of the conference, along with presentations which stood out in his mind. Description: Barcelona was a great location for AMEE 2016. More than 3500 participants joined in the plenary presentations, the symposia, more than 500 short communication presentations, more than 900 poster presentations and more than 60 conference workshops. There were 73 exhibits. Barcelona is a very attractive venue but I was so committed with meetings that I had little time to explore the city. Apart from some minor technical problems with the presentations the conference appeared to be a great success. It is always interesting to see the messages participants take home. Personally when attending a conference I always note down three take home messages. I was interested to note Andrew Coggins’ thoughts on the conference in his blog. ( As always, the fringe session organised by Rachel Ellaway proved attractive and the singing haematology aid featured in Andrew Coggins’ blog. At the conference there are various prizes for the best poster presentation, best research paper and the most innovative short communication. We are looking at, for next year, whether we should also have a prize for the Fringe contribution that attracts most attention.

Lawrence Sherman led Wisdom of our Crowd sessions at the end of the first and second plenaries during which the conference participants were asked their views on what had been submitted by delegates as key issues they wished to be addressed. Topics included the selection of medical students, the duration of medical training, competency-based education, interprofessional CPD, core curricula and electives and the use of social media in medical education. This was our first attempt at such an initiative and unfortunately participants in large parts of the auditorium were not able to vote electronically because of poor internet connectivity. The results of those who did vote, however, are nonetheless interesting and are reported in MedEdWorld and featured in the current newsletter. I was interested that three quarters of the 309 who were able to vote on the selection of students 75% advocated assessment based on the range of attributes expected of a doctor rather than a traditional emphasis on academic criteria, a selection by lottery or some other system. We may repeat the feature next year with hopefully better connectivity. We need to identify key questions where it is thought that it would be helpful to have the views of the conference participants.

I thought that the PechaKucha sessions during the conference where each presenter has 20 seconds to present 20 slides worked well and the six presentations in the final plenary served as a good way to end the meeting, addressing as they did topics ranging from the integrated curriculum to the flipped classroom and student engagement.

Phillip Cotton gave a hugely inspiring presentation on how as Vice-Chancellor he had turned around the University at Kigali, Rwanda. In the discussion following his presentation I asked “what would be his first steps if he found that he had been appointed as vice-chancellor of a university in the USA, Europe or Australia?” He said that his first actions would be to engage the students more, then added however, that he would probably be sacked within weeks of his appointment. This made me wonder whether universities are so resistant to transformative change that the approach adopted and leadership style as exemplified by Phillip Cotton would be unacceptable in a traditional university.

I was pleased to see that Brian Hodges from Toronto has been awarded the Karolinska Institutet Prize for Research in Medical Education 2016. He will be presented with the award and the prize of 50,000 euros at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden on 13th October. In the announcement of the award he was quoted as saying “When I was in medical school, all exams were written or oral; there were few simulations as part of the examination process. Today, the use of simulated patients is widespread internationally, and has changed the way that medical students are assessed. In a perfect world, health professionals would go back every year of their career to engage in challenging simulations to test their clinical and communication skills. That’s what I’m currently working on.” I have always been impressed by Brian’s deep and often provocative thinking. Having been involved with the OSCE since the beginning I was interested in his thoughtful book on the OSCE. Brian also took part in a dialogue onstage with Jason Frank in the First World Summit on Competency-Based Education held as a pre-conference activity for AMEE 2016 in Barcelona. He expressed some concerns about competency-based education and the long checklists that are adopted in the assessment of competence. He argued there is only one thing that one needs to know in assessing a doctor and that is whether he or she would be willing to have his family treated by the doctor. He didn’t elaborate however how he would judge that.

On the Tuesday evening I was honoured at the Royal Academy of Medicine of Catalonia with a Fellowship of the Academy. The Academy is based in a hugely impressive historic building in Barcelona, with the architecture and furnishings dating back to the 18th century. The presentation is shown in the photograph.


AMEE MedEdPublish attracted much attention at the conference as a post-publication open-access journal with rapid publication of articles, both at the AMEE stand and in the workshops. Some conference participants indicated that it is their intention to publish their papers in the journal. Launched in its new format in June AMEE MedEdPublish is rapidly establishing a place for itself in medical publishing. The concept of post-publication review is controversial but I am convinced, as is Richard Smith former editor of The BMJ, that it is the way forward. AMEE MedEdPublish will be run alongside Medical Teacher as a second AMEE journal with Richard Hays as editor.

With each year there are more activities and meetings around the AMEE Conference. I always feel sorry that I have not more time to talk with many colleagues and friends from around the world participating in the meeting. There were some opportunities to do this at the AMEE stand and at the Elsevier stand where I signed copies of the second edition of my book Essential Skills for a Medical Teacher, co-authored with Jennifer Laidlaw. The first edition had sold well and the launch of the second edition was well received at the meeting. In writing it, I was interested to reflect on the changes that had taken place in medical education since the publication of the first edition in 2012. Currently, in addition to catching up on various issues arising in Barcelona at the various meetings and planning for AMEE 2017 I am working on a new book with Pat Lilley on the roles of the medical teacher. This will look at the responsibilities and functions of a teacher from a different perspective to that presented in Essential Skills for a Medical Teacher.

The posters played an important part in the programme at AMEE 2016. I am impressed with how positively they have been received in the previous year’s evaluations. Some conference participants, however, prefer a short communication presentation than a poster and poster presentation. With a poster, however, the individual has an opportunity to present their work which is then on display throughout the meeting. This provides a huge opportunity to network and meet with colleagues with similar interests. There is no question that the standard of posters has risen over the years at AMEE meetings. Trudie Roberts drew my attention to an article in Nature (4th August 2016, pp115) “Lead the poster parade” by Chris Woolton. It highlights the advantages of presenting a poster at a meeting and how to do it most effectively. One suggestion that interested me was to include a QR smartphone barcode on the poster for a video of the topic. AMEE produced an AMEE Guide on posters and we have sent this in the past to those accepted for a poster presentation. We did not have e-posters this year but we will look at it again for 2017. My main regret from the meeting was the lack of time to talk with my many colleagues and friends from around the world.