The AVLS: Educating Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond

There can be no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all our lives in many ways. Here at the AVLS, we too have had to make many adjustments over the past several months. One of the primary areas where we have had to make changes in our operations is around continuing medical education. Our educational programming has always included several in-person educational meetings throughout the year, most notably our Annual Congress in the fall.  With the height of the pandemic emerging in spring of this year, we were forced to cancel our regularly scheduled in-person programs for April. While we were greatly disappointed in having to cancel these events, the health and safety of our membership and staff is always our first priority. However, the AVLS was in a unique position to be able to quickly adapt to these changing times. Even before COVID-19 was a part of our daily lives, the AVLS was looking towards the future of continuing medical education. Most notably, we have been collaborating with Med360 to incorporate immersive virtual reality (VR) technology as part of our educational offerings.

Our inaugural virtual reality course, Immersive Sclerotherapy Course VR: 360, launched on May 22, 2020. In April 2019, our live Sclerotherapy course was recorded by Med360. They then turned it into a fully immersive 3-D educational experience. To date, twenty-seven medical professionals, both members and non-members of the AVLS, have participated in this virtual reality experience. Registrants of the course are sent a virtual reality headset by which they can experience the 2019 conference as if they had actually been present in the room. Additionally, Med360 also visited Dr. Margaret Mann’s clinic at Case Western Reserve where they recorded her performing sclerotherapy several patients.  The VR headset allows for participants to view the procedure as if they were standing in the room with Dr. Mann herself!

This year also inspired a reimagining of our popular RPhS Review Course. By combining pre-recorded didactic lectures with a live streamed interactive component, we were able to offer this course via CadmiumCD, an online event platform.  The course opened for its fifty-eight registrants on August 6, 2020 with the pre-recorded presentations available to all. On Saturday, August 15th, the course closed with a 3-hour live stream session hosted by our faculty where they conducted a mock RPhS exam with audience polling, Q&A, and discussion. The live stream was also recorded so that both the live stream and the didactic lectures can be moved to our Online Education Center and be made available as an enduring material in the future.

Probably our most significant change has been with our Annual Congress. While we originally planned for an in-person meeting to take place in Washington D.C., we quickly realized that we would need to include options for those who could no longer physically attend the conference. Because we had already partnered with CadmiumCD, we were in an excellent position to pivot the live course to a hybrid one. Unfortunately, like many other live events we ultimately had to cancel in-person programming altogether. Once again, our collaborations allowed us to fully transform the 2020 34th Annual Congress into a 100% virtual event. Attendees and faculty speakers were able to fully participate in the event from the comfort and safety of their own homes or offices, and all educational content was live streamed and recorded.  These recordings have been made available to attendees after the event. For the first time ever, you CAN be in two places at once! Attendees can participate in any of the sessions live and then go back and watch recordings of any sessions they missed. Because of this option we are able to offer up to 80.75 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditsTM for attendees who participate in all CME sessions of Congress.

As we continue to navigate these uncertain times, one thing has become abundantly clear. Virtual education is here to stay. It would be difficult to imagine going back to a purely in-person educational model. The ability to participate in education remotely has many benefits including time saved, lowered costs, and a wider attendance reach, particularly for our international attendees.  Attendees and speakers alike no longer have to worry about travel expenses or time away from their families and practices. Being able to participate in education on your own time based on your own personal and business schedules is probably the biggest benefit we have seen. To this end, the AVLS will continue to offer virtual educational opportunities whenever possible. Vein Clinics of America and Center for Vein Restoration have both agreed to provide facilities and cases for filming in virtual reality of a wide variety of phlebological procedures in clinic. We scheduled the filming in mid-September this year. The intention is to then combine these with a series of recorded didactic lectures from the 2020 Annual Congress and the Phlebology Review Course in 2021 to create a series of new immersive educational offerings to enable expanded, “near-live” remote education. Based on the initial success and acceptance of the Sclerotherapy Immersive course, the Foundation for Venous and Lymphatic Disease is working on new grant funding to support the development expenses associated with the production of these additional immersive educational opportunities. Also in 2021, the 35th Annual Congress, to be held on October 7th through 10th in Denver, CO, will be a hybrid event incorporating both virtual and in-person participation options. We truly are embracing the best of both worlds.

We at the AVLS are excited for the future of medical education and will continue to work to incorporate advancements in educational technology so that we can continue to provide you with quality educational opportunities.