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smaccGOLD: Reflections from Down Under

smaccGOLD: Reflections from Down Under

I’m sitting in the airport about to board a flight back to Canada and to be honest I am a bit worried that I won’t make it through customs. No, I am not packing drugs or even smuggling some outback steak across the border. I am worried that the agent will be suspicious of the huge grin that remains plastered on my face after three whirlwind days at the Social Media and Critical Care conference in Queensland, Australia. I am worried that I am bringing back with me more than the allowable limit of inspiring ideas, energy and meaningful connections. I’m worried that I won’t be able to afford the tariff on these intangibles that might meet me on arrival in Ottawa. In so many ways I am returning to Canada with far more then what I left with. Let’s take a look:

Understanding of the Role of Doctor

  • Dr. Brazil’s opening keynote on tribal behaviours in medicine eloquently explored how specialties in medicine are  like tribes, how there are benefits and drawbacks to this mentality. She encouraged us to come together at SMACC, to put tribal differences aside, to unite and learn together. She reminded us how simple things like #hellomynameis and sitting down don’t just apply to patient interactions but our interactions with colleagues as well. I leave more aware of tribal behaviour and how it might interfere or benefit patient care. This talk was particularly relevant as an ‘undifferentiated’ medical student not yet a part of any one chosen tribe but welcome with open arms by so many at SMACC. As suggested, I’ve already started to read Tribal Leadership, stay tuned for a reflection on tribal behaviours in medical education.
    • There is much that we can do, but what should we do? This was a recurring question that, as a group of critical care nuts, is a hard but important one to consider. Dr. Myburgh reviewed evidence showing that we can improve mortality by performing craniotomies but functioning in those survivors is very poor- should we do them? Many docs showed that we can resuscitate patients with increasingly complex technology- but should we? A brilliant palliative care panel explored the ethics around end of life decisions. We can go to great lengths to prolong life- but should we?
  • Throughout the conference there was also a call to action for physicians. A call to engage with the public and policy makers on major issues facing emergency medicine, critical care and the healthcare system.
  • More then ever I appreciate the role of learner that a physician must maintain throughout practice. Participants at SMACC were deeply curious about their field and hoping to improve their practice. Dr. Carley begged us to question and evaluate how we decide to change practice, showing that it requires not only a reflection on the evidence, but on our own beliefs. His talk nicely coincided with Lauren Westafer’s previous look at Unlearning.
      • Rob Rogers convincingly pushed that physicians need to get back to the bedside. We need to spend more time with patients and that teaching should happen at the bedside. From the student’s perspective I agree wholeheartedly. Teach one thing at the bedside and in Dr. Roger’s words I will “learn more when you teach less”.
    • The list could go on an on. What were your favourite moments?

Medical Knowledge

There is too much to rehash here but here are some of my favourites
Learning from a brilliant panel

Learning from a brilliant panel


  A great review of neuroanatomy from Andy Neill. Check out his website.

Presentation Style

An amazingly talented group of speakers captivated the audience and shared knowledge in an entertaining, efficient and meaningful way.  Here’s what I learned:
Cliff Reid captivating the audience. (photo credit to @louisecullen)

Cliff Reid captivating the audience. (photo credit to @louisecullen)

    • Be passionate about your topic, the rest will follow.
    • Tell stories
    • Have simple slides- go for no text if possible (and it is)
    • Be human, don’t be afraid to reveal a bit about yourself. Your failures, your successes, your life, your personality.

Reflection on Training

I plan to further explore this in a future, more evidence-based post but for now suffice it to say that training is done much differently in the land down under then in North America. There is much more flexibility for horizontal movement across the system. Want to improve your airway skills? Then spend a year doing just that. Need more peds experience, then find it. In the next few months I will be applying to “the match” in Canada and 1 year from now I will match to a residency program and that will be my fate. There isn’t the same degree of freedom to explore medicine in it’s entirety. I do recognize there are benefits and drawbacks to both systems but during my time at SMACC I saw many of the benefits including a group of clinicians who understand how the system works because they have worked in many parts of it.

The People


What was the best part of the conference you ask? Bottom line, no doubt about it, THE PEOPLE. I thought, from knowing them online,  they were pretty neat before I went but it turns out they are even more awesome in real life. It was a humbling experience for a bunch of social media keeners to be reminded of the immense value of meeting face to face. The humility of many of the ‘big guns’ and the enthusiasm of all made the environment one of inclusivity and fun. Whether it a quick conversation between sessions, early morning beachside runs, the gala or FOAMeoke all were welcome and encouraged to be involved. It was a group who likes to laugh, learn and have fun!

What next (other than SMACC Chicago 2015)?

smacc usAs you probably know by now the next SMACC is in Chicago in May 20-22 but what about between now and then. What happens next? For me it is a focus on who I am as a learner. The most inspiring talk for me was Dr. Brazil’s talk on evidence-based education. She showed us that the most significant contributor to ‘positive’ medical education outcomes is the learner at baseline. I don’t have control over my professors and of my curriculum but I do have control of myself. I have control over how I engage with and invest in my curriculum and my patients. I am the biggest factor in my own education and need to continue to find ways to take ownership and optimize learning so that I can do the best for my patients. That’s what the next year and this career will be all about. What will you do between now and when we get together for #smaccUS?


I must thank Queen's Medicine and the generous Samuel Wigdor Scholarship for making this experience possible.
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A junior emergency medicine resident with interest in rural medicine, medical education and social media in health care. When not working in the hospital, she is usually running, playing guitar or planning an outdoor adventure.

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3 Responses to smaccGOLD: Reflections from Down Under

  1. […] smaccGOLD: Lessons from Down Under – Eve Purdy from Manu et Corde […]

  2. […] Eve Purdy (@Purdy_Eve) on her blog Manu et Corde […]

  3. […] pleasure of attending smaccGOLD last year. I wrote about what made it such a rich experience here and I have been anticipating SMACC Chicago since my flight left Brisbane last March. I am […]

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