As we come to the end of this “annus horribilis,” we all see vaccine availability rapidly approaching, meaning that 2021 opens the door to a new era in which we can regain our freedom, at least some of it. So that is a good prospect. However, the insight we have now gained into the social and economic damage a pandemic can cause will certainly change the way we travel, work and meet. While pessimists may see this as a momentum towards an even more digitised, individualised and impersonal society, it is also possible to see this as a positive reversal towards a society that offers more opportunities. Thanks to global access to the Internet and the availability of innovative web-based services, we can meet and teach a lot easier, even without traveling. Digital education has now gained ground, also in areas where medical professionals and students don’t have sufficient resources to attend international live meetings. Or to say it with Johan Cruyff’s famous words: “every disadvantage has its advantage”.
It has pleasantly surprised me how quickly EuSoMII was able to adapt to this crisis situation. Already in the first months of the pandemic we realized that our annual meeting could not take place in Valencia, so we quickly decided to organize our annual meeting virtually. Thanks to exemplary teamwork, we managed to have a successful first annual virtual meeting. Everything went smoothly and the meeting was a success, it was even possible to submit scientific posters and publications. We are very grateful to all speakers, participants and sponsors for their commitment to participate in this virtual meeting, and we definitely made a good choice to do this in partnership with the Morressier team. You can read more about this digital adventure in this blog. The material will remain online until the end of October 2021.
The Imaging Covid-19 AI initiative is another project that emerged from EuSoMII in the early phase of the pandemic. We thought that with the help of the network and knowledge present within our society, it should be possible to collect CT images from all over Europe in order to train an algorithm that could help radiologists to diagnose Covid-19 infection in an efficient and accurate manner. This has led to a large scale research-based project in which we were able to collect an unseen amount of scans and clinical information (+4000) from 23 different European centers. Remarkably dozens of radiologists, including EuSoMII-members, have volunteered to annotate the images, which resulted in a high-quality dataset. Based on this dataset, we were able to organize a hackathon with our industrial partners, which resulted in a very efficient algorithm, both for segmentation and classification of abnormalities. A scientific publication will follow soon, but in the last week of January 2021 the results will be communicated to all participating hospitals via a virtual meeting. A correct date and time will be announced soon. I can already tell you that we can be very proud of the results. In my opinion, this is an unprecedented “tour de force” of EuSoMII, by which we also will be able to contribute to the existing crisis through innovation and artificial intelligence. It was a very challenging but also enormously educational project, which required a lot of effort, all on a voluntary basis. We are very grateful to all participating parties for their tremendous efforts.
One challenge remained this year, namely the EuSoMII board elections. Due to the current circumstances, they will have to continue in a virtual version, hopefully in the first quarter of 2021. We will keep you informed. In the course of last year we did succeed in further building a solid foundation for our society. We have succeeded in our goal to attract a large number of new young members from multiple countries, and to increase their active involvement in the policy and vision of our society. This offers us a very promising perspective for 2021. I would like to express my gratitude for having achieved this, especially to the representatives of our younger members’ club.
Will we be meeting in person next year? At this time, it is too early to make a final decision regarding the format of the next annual meeting. Please rest assured that our foremost concern is your safety and wellbeing when making the decision. We will update you early next year. And no matter where you are, we hope that the festive season gives you a moment to yourself and that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. I look forward to seeing you in person again soon!