off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Stalwarts and Outstanding
 participants at conferences



Prof. Nikil Tandon is Professor of Endocrinology at All India Institute of Medicine, New Delhi India. He was one of the invited guest speakers at the SAFES Summit 2015 held at Dhaka, Bangladesh during April 2015. During the conference at the breakfast table, we were discussing about the participation of the delegates in the scientific sessions at medical conferences at which, he came up with some interesting information.

He pointed out that there are many “Stalwarts” and “Outstanding” healthcare professionals who are seen at all the medical conferences held anywhere in the world.  The story is almost similar. When I asked him how he defines the Stalwarts and Outstanding, Prof. Nikil said that “You go to any conference anywhere you will see some of the delegates sitting or roaming at the stalls set up by the pharmaceutical trade and industry or enjoying their hospitality at the “Hospitality Suites” set up by these companies at the conference venue. They will be busy in collecting gift items from various stalls some of which even may be of very little value (i.e. Ball Points, Paper weights, Writing Pads, Key Chains, Tissue Paper boxes etc). These Stalwarts have very little interest in academics; hence they seldom bother to attend the scientific sessions.

The second category i.e. Outstanding consists of those who come to these conferences for socializing, hence they can be seen standing outside the conference halls or in the corridors meeting, talking to people. They are also not much interested in academics hence do not find any compelling reason to attend scientific sessions.  Both these categories of conference delegates are always seen at the social functions, at the time or Lunch, Dinner or at Tea intervals. Most often it is only a few who are much keen to learn, keep themselves abreast of latest developments in their respective specialties, hence they always attend the sessions regularly. They are also the one who make presentations,   are honoured to chair sessions or be a part of the Experts Panel in the panel discussion. The situation looked quite familiar that we see in Pakistan as well.

Participation in the scientific sessions is directly linked to the quality of scientific programme and the quality of speakers. If the scientific programme is interesting and the speakers are renowned medical personalities who have  lot of professional accomplishments to their credit,  the Halls are always full to capacity, jam-packed even one can see people standing  in the hall to listen to these speakers.  As such it is up to the conference organizers and what their prime objectives are? Those conference organizers who concentrate on ensuring interesting scientific presentations, latest Updates,  cutting edge research findings, invite eminent speakers and also plan much ahead as the renowned speakers are all too busy and they finalize their programme months ahead,  they attract lot of participants  and one will often find the Halls full to capacity. However, if the prime objective of the conference organizers is to collect money from pharmaceutical trade and industry by inviting them to become Platinum, Gold and Silver Sponsors, using all coercive means to generate funding, they are left with no time to concentrate on scientific programme. Hence the meetings organized by them are mere social get together with very little scientific value. Even the start of CME Credits won’t make much difference as they just sign the attendance sheet to qualify for the certificate and that is all which is happening at present at some of these academic activities being organized by various medical institutions and professional specialty organizations. Most of the conferences organized at Bhurban Pearle Continental have always proved to be family social get together by the healthcare professionals or Health Melas but what is more painful is the fact that it is all paid for by the Pharmaceutical Trade and Industry who is coerced to sponsor all this which then passes it on to the poor patients in the shape of higher cost of medicines and other services.