Colombia chapter co-sponsors workshop, trains residents in conducting and presenting research

Originally published in the Spring 2014 issue of  ARVONews


The newly formed Colombia Chapter of ARVO (CARVO) and the Sociedad Colombiana de Oftalmologia (Society of Ophthalmology of Colombia; SCO) held their Congreso de Residentes E Investigacion (Resident's Research Conference) in September 2013 in San Andres, Colombia. The Colombian chapter invited ARVO representatives to present a two-day training workshop that covers scientific methods and practices in conducting research in vision and ophthalmology, writing a research paper for publication in international journals and orally presenting research at a scientific forum.

Members of ARVO, the Colombia Chapter of ARVO (CARVO) and
the Sociedad Colombiana de Oftalmologia (Society of Ophthalmology
of Colombia) met in San Andres to take part in the first vision research
workshop for residents in that region of the South America. Back row,
from left: Mauricio Jaramillo, Ramiro Prada, Governor of San Andres
Islands Aury Guerrero Bowie, John Ash, Jaime Velasque O'Byrne,
Jeffrey Boatright, Roberto Baquero, Carlos Restrepo and Alberto Diaz.
Front row from left: Juanita Ortega and Joyce Tombran-Tink.

More than one-hundred residents and several senior faculty members and clinicians attended the workshop. The meeting was an unmitigated success, largely due to the quality of the residents, and the focus and hard work of the Colombian faculty and local organizing committee.

“CARVO Day” started with formal presentations conducted by the ARVO team. The morning session covered four broad topics: the scientific method, the publication process, writing and submitting a manuscript for peer reviewed publication in international journals and responding to reviewer comments. This was followed by a practical session in the afternoon where 10 break-out groups constructed a scientific abstract from data provided to them from a recently published paper. Each group then publicly critiqued its own abstract against the actual published one and those written by the other groups. Not only were the tasks new to the residents, they had to accomplish them in a non-native language under time constraints. The key objective of this exercise was to encourage the residents to write standard formatted abstracts from their own research to submit to the ARVO Annual Meeting.

This intense first day ended successfully with residents gaining a solid understanding of the architecture of a scientific abstract and, by extension, the essential components of a research paper.

On the second day, the objective was to train the students to present their research at a scientific meeting. Eighteen residents gave 10-minute talks with discussion highlighting their own research. These were judged for scientific merit and presentation quality. The session format mimicked ARVO platform sessions with moderators, timed talks and discussions. The ARVO-like mini symposium was done entirely in English but again the residents rose to the challenge. Although reticent at first to engage in discussions, the pace of the questions picked up rapidly leading to an exciting interchange and a challenging experience for both speakers and audience. This was one of the highlights of the workshop as it indicated that the students incorporated the organization, writing and critiquing skills learned the previous day during the training session.

When the scores were tallied and the winning presentation announced, the crowd cheered enthusiastically. One outcome of this workshop is that the winner will attend ARVO 2014 in Orlando with full financial support from the SCO. A second outcome is that many of the residents now plan to submit abstracts to the ARVO Annual Meeting.

This workshop is certain to have a positive effect in the quantity and quality of the ophthalmology research program in Colombia and its future translation to clinical, professional, educational and career developments. Investment in such training is certain to advance vision research and clinical practice globally, enhance communications and strategic collaborations and create a positive ripple affect for ARVO in the vision community worldwide. 

SCO is enthusiastic but realistic about research in Colombia, which is historically under-funded. The Colombian government, however, plans to increase its biomedical research support in the coming decade. SCO is working to ensure that its residents are intellectually and practically prepared to benefit from this overture.

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