Has the IOACON lost its charm?
After attending the last three IOACONs(Annual Meeting of the Indian Orthopaedic Association) in succession, I found that there is a gradual decline in the no of delegates attending the prestigious meeting of the Indian Orthopaedic Association. The past presidents, including Prof Johari had made serious amendments, so that IOACON still remains the most popular meeting among Indian Orthopaedic Surgeons. Prof Rajasekharan in 2010 put forward a questionnaire to everyone to suggest changes at IOACON and he has tried to implement many of them. Some of the biggest issues of IOACON 2010 at Jaipur were that most of the people were not present in the halls, even when highly respected international faculty delivered their lectures. This became such a serious issue that even local newspapers ran full page news covering photographs with empty halls and many orthopaedic surgeons standing in queue for gift vouchers and bags at various pharma stalls.
The faculty selection has been a considerable debate over the years at the most prestigious conference. It has been a common practice that state chapters recommend the faculty and forward it to the national executive. This leads to considerable bias. Prof Rajasekharan suggested a feedback system where all delegates are required to provide feedback for faculty talks, so that those with higher points were given preference at the next IOACON. Though this has been proposed at the last conference, it has still not been implemented.
The significant decline in the number of foreign faculty and delegates is also a serious issue. There has been a significant decline in foreign faculty. While most associations, have a tie up with the AAOS, the tie up of IOA and the AAOS looks weak. In National Meetings of other associations, there is a separate session or even one day dedicated for the AAOS Instructional Course Lectures and most of them are overbooked. It is time that the IOA invites the AAOS and provide them a session or a hall for the prestigious ICLs. I am sure that this step will bring back some of the lost zeal of IOACON. The lack of involvement of AAOS in the IOACONs led Alkem pharmaceuticals to conduct the AAOS India Trauma Conclave in 4 cities, which was again overbooked and a huge success for Alkem laboratories.
The only session where he had the best of foreign faculty was the ACE Trauma symposium, the brainchild of Prof Mohit Bhandari and Dr Parag Sancheti. We saw some the world’s best faculty, Prof Joel Matta, Prof Thomas Einhorn, Dr Vinod Dasa from USA, Dr Mohit Bhandari, Dr Brad Pretisor, Dr Femi Ayeni from Canada, Dr Susan Liew from Australia, Dr Karthik Hariharan from UK. The greatest part of the meeting was that all the talks delivered were based on Current Best Evidence and a great emphasis was placed on Evidence Based Orthopaedics. The halls ran full until the last talk at 6pm in the evening. Next year, we are going to have ACE Trauma, ACE Spine, ACE Joint Reconstruction, ACE Sports Medicine, so that emphasis is placed on current best evidence.
This drawback of IOACON has led to success of speciality meetings. For eg, there were more than 7 joint replacement major meetings last year like the ROC, JRSOA, IAA, Current concepts in arthroplasty, ISHK and MIOT meetings. Others like IASCON conduct live arthroscopy workshops with experts in the respective fields. The foot and ankle meeting by Dr Selene G Parekh from Duke University also is very popular because of the fairly good no of international faculty. In Spine, the ASSICON and the Ganga Hospital Courses run packed.
I remember in 2003(Chennai), 2004(Agra), 2005(Mumbai), at least the main hall was usually full. But since 2009, the no of delegates in the main hall has also decreased. Will the new leadership with Prof Rajasekharan, Dr SKS Marya, change the scenario of our prestigious meeting?
The other major issue was the website, which has been revamped to provide a new website. The current one looks very impressive but nowhere can we compare it with the largest educational resource, the AAOS website. I am sure that Prof Rajasekharan would have visited the AAOS web a no of times. It is time that we do a bit of introspection.
I would still recommend the IOACON for the younger generation of orthopaedic surgeons and postgraduates, because it is a good platform for trainees and junior surgeons to present papers and posters in big halls(although there is no audience). They can overcome stage fear and they can gain some practice sessions
Dr Hitesh Gopalan U
Editor, Orthopaedic Principles
Expert Advisory Panel, Ortho-Evidence, India