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Celebrating 50 Years of Continuing Education In General Surgery

The 50th Update in General Surgery in 2010 achieved its goal of attracting over 500 participants. This continuing education course is the largest general surgery course of its kind in Canada. It was attended by surgeons from coast to coast. There were 19 surgeons from British Columbia and others from many countries - including John Najarian who has chaired the largest similar course in the US at the University of Minnesota.

Presentation attendees

Many practicing surgeons throughout our region consider this one of the most important educational experiences of their year. They also enjoy reconnecting with colleagues at the course. A large contingent of finishing residents from across Canada use the course to prepare them for the Royal College Certifying Examination.

This year was the first year that a paperless meeting was held. The guidelines for the course, directed by Chair Andy Smith, are that it should be practical, pragmatic and emphasize state of the art treatment - what's happening now, rather than the science of the future. The speakers were highly evaluated; the program is available here online.

Bryce Taylor was the lead-off speaker, describing the highly influential checklist project. Outstanding speakers recognized by the audience for their skills were Marcus Burnstein -What's new in diverticulitis? and Susan Abbey - All in their head? How to talk to patients whose symptoms can't be explained.

The course faculty came from a deep bench of University of Toronto surgeons as well as world class outside speakers. Michael Rosen of Chicago spoke on Components Separation for Repairing Abdominal Wall Defects. He emphasized the use of biological meshes that can work in infected fields. Charles Edmiston of Wisconsin, an expert on infectious disease and nosocomial infections described the fables and fantasies of aseptic technique, particularly the problems related to gloves and masks.

In addition to the main program, there was a variety of early morning and evening courses all of which were well attended. For example, Ori Rotstein's course on perioperative issues, Improving Postsurgical Recovery: What's the Evidence?, was packed with participants at 6.15 am.

The update course began 50 years ago as a "refresher course" organized by surgeons at the Toronto General Hospital. It has matured progressively to include a larger and larger participant group, particularly under the enthusiastic chairmanship of Zane Cohen, for whom the course was a labor of love. Zane mentored Andy Smith in the management of the course. Importantly, the chair of General Surgery is always the course director, working with an outstanding committee.

Previous General Surgery chairs Bernie Langer, Zane Cohen, Neil Watters and Bryce Taylor met with Andy at Centro to reflect on the history of the course and other aspects of the evolution of General Surgery at the University of Toronto. The lively senior chair, 88 year old Neil Watters provided interesting historical information packets to all of his successors.

General Surgery manager Linda Last was the driving and organizing force behind this year's highly successful iteration. (see Summer 2009 article here). Randy Smith of VisuallySound provided world class audio-visual support, and university continuing education specialist Nathalie Halsband added the strength of our remarkable continuing education department. There are additional successful CE courses within the general surgery division including surgical oncology, trauma and others. The Update in General Surgery is the "granddaddy of them all". "Hands on" sessions on a variety of topics including sentinel nodes and how to run an office were featured on Saturday morning. Ontario Association of General Surgeons president Jeff Kolbasnik served on the faculty this year - a testament to the increasingly integrated nature of the General Surgery community in Ontario. Novel features of the course include the paperless format and the always popular use of touch pads for audience participation. Next year's course may include the introduction of "Google Moderator" (for more information see also: http://www.google.com/moderator/) or the increasingly popular "Twitter" applications.


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