The Opening Session of the sixth EAN Congress, the first Virtual EAN Congress in our society’s history, was special in more than one way. The unprecedented upheaval of the global COVID-19 pandemic affects societies across the globe and mirrors the turbulent times we all live in. EAN has made a great contribution to improve this unsettling situation by moving the 6th EAN Congress online and offering free registration to all, providing thousands of medical professionals with important access to medical education.
The Session started with a short video clip that underlines this spirit of solidarity and fellowship. Opening remarks were made by the Acting President Claudio Bassetti, who began by briefly recounting a year which has begun as “annus horribilis”, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as Prof. Franz Fazekas’ falling ill during his presidency. On the bright side, Prof. Fazekas is successfully recovering and while these difficult times have posed a great challenge to the organization of the annual congress, they also gave space to developments of a new format for future congresses. Hybrid congresses are an opportunity that combines the positives of both virtual and live, on-site conferences. As Prof. Bassetti emphasised in his opening speech, this approach also enables those who cannot attend in person in the spirit of EAN´s congress motto „Predict, Prevent, Repair“.
The EAN Virtual Congress includes a Special Sessions on COVID-19. As medical specialists from all over the world face challenges arising from ageing population, lack of neurologists, unequal opportunities and financial pressure, it is necessary to keep opportunities for development and growth in mind. Arising from these tests, availability has been made a strategic priority for the upcoming years.
After opening remarks, Prof. Marie Vidailhet and Prof. Tony Marson introduced the intriguing first lecture by Yann Le Cun on the topic of Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning. The lecture gave an overview on breakthroughs and the most important work in the field of AI. Following the lecture, Claudio Bassetti introduced EAN´s Honorary Member for 2020, Prof. Charles Warlow, who was awarded in recognition of his major contributions to neurology. Prof. Warlow is the author or over 500 scientific papers and also published a ‘Book on Warlow´s Stroke.’
In his acceptance speech, Professor Warlow pointed out how Brexit is changing the face of Europe; nonetheless UK´s neurologists remain members and contribute to the old continent. As he also indicated, that neurologists all over the world are transforming the ways they learn. The increase in video-conferencing lowers the costs and emissions drastically. In his futuristic remarks he noted that also communication with patients has shifted to online platforms, which has made patient consultation more accessible, as a result of COVID-19 outbreak.
Concluding the opening ceremony, Prof. Vidailhet sent the audience greetings from Paris and gave her thanks to the Local Organising Committee. The sound of Swinging Partout carried the audience on a virtual journey to picturesque Paris.
Watch the session on-demand