Last year showed that, despite a COVID-induced year off in 2020, there was still plenty of appetite among fellows and programs to attend the Midwest Fellows Critical Care Ultrasound Symposium. That year attendance still increased over 2019’s numbers, though it may have been due in part to the inclusion of second-year fellows who had to miss the training in 2020.
This year there could no mistaking the increase of interest. A total of 84 fellows from 15 different fellowship programs enrolled this year, the sixth time the University of Iowa has hosted the symposium. These first-year critical care fellows continue to stretch the definition of “Midwest,” coming from as far away as Kentucky in the east and Colorado and New Mexico in the west.
The curriculum has not varied dramatically from year to year. The formula that symposium organizers—including its director, Gregory Schmidt, MD, professor in Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Occupational Medicine—have established continues to receive high marks from attendees. More than twenty faculty members from 12 institutions deliver didactic and interactive lectures on a variety of related topics. They cover some of the basics on the first day, but move pretty quickly into techniques for specific uses, whether it is getting the right angle to spot the leaky mitral valve or where to (carefully) press to find a deep vein thrombosis.
Those same faculty members also guide hands-on practice with the tools and simulated patients in clinical spaces. The fellows all discover that having the probe in hand with an expert at their side is the fastest way to learn.
Outside of the Medical Education Research Facility on the Carver College of Medicine campus, attendees continued to get a taste of what life in Iowa is like. Schmidt has hosted a bike ride each year through the green space integrated in the Iowa City and Coralville community. Riders see first-hand how accessible but still remote-feeling the trails throughout the city are.
After the bike ride, attendees are treated to a picnic and drinks. A local pizza place brings a portable oven directly to Schmidt’s house and guests enjoy slices while playing games and getting to know one another.
Day Two of the symposium offers more hands-on experience, alternated with presentations ranging from how to incorporate ultrasound into CPR to why point-of-care ultrasound offers a more comprehensive set of data than the more typical CT scans and X-rays.
By the end of the second day, the first-year fellows are tested on what they have learned and encouraged to continue its practice as they return back to their programs and institutions. They also carry home with them the memory of time well-spent among friends and colleagues learning and honing a skill that will serve them for the rest of their careers.
As the afternoon session began, Schmidt took a moment to express his thanks to everyone for contributing to another successful year. He also singled out his division leadership for continuing to value and support the work of the symposium, as well as the division’s many administrative personnel who worked behind the scenes, arranging travel, food, lodging, and even bicycle reservations. And then it was back to work, making efficient use of two days for a career-long impact.