In the lead-up to the ESPO (European Society of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology) Virtual Conference on 20 Feb 2021, Ray Clarke (President, ESPO 2023) interviewed Joana Araújo (Chair, ESPO Juniors Board) to find out a bit more about ESPO Juniors and their involvement with ESPO. Scroll to the end of this article to watch the video interview.
How did you become involved with ESPO?
I always had a special interest in paediatric ENT and during the 2016 ESPO conference in Lisbon, my hometown, I was more aware of ESPO’s activities. During this meeting I talked to some of its members and learnt about the Junior ESPO group that was about to be established. I became part of its mailing list straightaway. This way, I knew about the ESPO BPOC (British Paediatric Otolaryngology Course) Bursary for Juniors, applied for it in 2018 and received the grant. That was the starting point of my involvement in ESPO. After the 2018 Congress I applied for the ESPO Junior Board and happily became the Chair of this wonderful group.
What are your hopes for ESPO Juniors in the future?
Personally speaking, I hope that ESPO Juniors can be a platform for young doctors that appreciate paediatric ENT and wish to pursue this subspecialty in the future. I wish it can be a resource where they can find educational material and information on paediatric ENT courses, as well as tips for their careers, such as fellowship information and research collaboration opportunities. It can also be a very good social platform to meet young doctors that have the same interests, in Europe and around the world.
Tell us a little re your own background and your journey in paediatric ENT.
My residency took place in a tertiary hospital that included a paediatric ENT department, where I spent a lot of time. There, I became aware of the exciting complexity of paediatric ENT that goes way beyond the ‘classic’ adenotonsillectomy and tube surgeries. Since in Portugal there aren’t formal ENT subspecialties, I always pursued courses and other activities that helped me to know more about paediatric ENT. Now, as a young ENT consultant I wish to further specialise in children, eventually by doing a fellowship in Europe.
“By creating collaborative sessions with both junior and senior ENTs during ESPO Conferences, they can help promote research collaborations and encourage young doctors to participate”
How can the senior members of the specialty support ESPO Juniors?
I think senior ESPO members can be very helpful in both educational and scientific aspects for juniors just taking their first steps in paediatric ENT. For example, by promoting webinars on key themes and hands-on courses, which have already proved to be popular amongst young ENTs. Also, by creating collaborative sessions with both junior and senior ENTs during ESPO Conferences, they can help promote research collaborations and encourage young doctors to participate. Helping create a database of learning material such as guidelines/practical information could also be very useful.
What are the major challenges for young ENTS with an interest in paediatric ENT?
Since training programmes throughout Europe are so different, the exposure to advanced paediatric ENT pathology and surgery may not be enough. Unfortunately, the number of fellowships and practical courses is limited, which is a great nuisance for any young doctor interested in paediatric ENT. Taking this into account, one of our major goals in Junior ESPO is to provide updated information on different fellowships to help young doctors decide where, when and how to apply.
Can we ensure better harmony across different jurisdictions to drive ESPO Juniors?
This is a hard task, but I think one way to do this is by somehow standardising training programmes. This could be achieved by creating a European board exam for paediatric ENT subspecialties, for example, or by establishing fellowships with certified programmes. Maybe ESPO can help to make this happen in the future.
“One of our major goals in Junior ESPO is to provide updated information on different fellowships to help young doctors decide where, when and how to apply”
What communication strategies have ESPO Juniors got across countries?
We have a Junior section on the ESPO website, in which members can have access to useful material (https://espo.eu.com/espo-juniors/). We also have our social media pages where we highlight the latest activities. You can follow us on Twitter @ESPO_PedENT, on Instagram # espo.juniors2018 and on Facebook @ESPOJuniors. People can also contact us through our email and become part of our mailing list: email@example.com. Still, face-to-face meetings in conferences or other events remain very good opportunities to gather young enthusiasts of paediatric ENT.
How do we ensure junior ENTs get research projects funded and supported?
ESPO can be a great way for juniors to establish a network to start international research projects, since it is one of the most important ENT international societies. ESPO conferences can be a way for young ENTs to present their research and attain more visibility, as well. Still, we understand that funding projects depend a lot on the local laboratory or hospital conducting the research, but having that ESPO support can help in obtaining research funding.
How has COVID-19 changed the agenda for ESPO juniors?
With the delay of the ESPO Congress in 2020 we also had to delay the new Junior ESPO board nomination. We believe that face-to-face interaction is key to help us know better the potential candidates, so we are looking forward to meeting interested juniors during the Marseille conference in November 2021. Nevertheless, the pandemic has been an opportunity to start developing new activities, such as the webinars, that have already been a great success. We are also excited about the upcoming virtual congress, in which Junior ESPO is organising a video contest. Check out our website and social media for further information (https://espo.eu.com/espo-virtual-conference/).
“Also, we are creating new session formats, such as quizzes and video contests to stimulate young doctors to participate, learning and socialising at the same time”
Do we need more training fellowships, and how can ESPO help?
Since many young doctors cannot have paediatric ENT practice during their formal residency training, assuring that more fellowships are available in different European countries could help. ESPO can be a platform to help create new fellowships and advertise them, providing details of programmes. The Junior section on the ESPO website already has some fellowship reviews done by young ENTs, stating the highlights of each programme and giving useful tips for anyone who wishes to apply. Still, this list is not complete, so we hope that former ENT fellows can help us to gather more reports.
What are your hopes for ESPO Marseilles and for ESPO Liverpool?
We hope these conferences will be highly attended by young ENTs, thus being a very good opportunity to meet up and find more people willing to collaborate. For Junior ESPO, as a new group, I would say the main challenge is to increase our visibility and create a larger young community. We hope the congress programme is appealing to young ENTs, both in its scientific and social parts. We are looking forward to collaborative sessions between juniors and seniors, in which practical issues can be addressed in an interactive and appealing way. Also, we are creating new session formats, such as quizzes and video contests to stimulate young doctors to participate, learning and socialising at the same time, and having fun doing it.
Should we look beyond Europe to become a global paediatric ENT society?
Many ESPO members are not European, so I think we already are on our way to becoming a global society. In fact, USA has the second largest group of members in ESPO after the UK. Maybe we should open Junior ESPO to USA and other non-European countries. It seems very challenging at our level, since Junior ESPO is just beginning, but we are enthusiastic about the future.