2015/16 saw the formation of the Edinburgh University Endocrinology Society (EUES). Not content with merely setting up the Society, we decided to hold the first UK National Undergraduate Endocrinology Conference. With no footsteps in which to follow, we had to come up with our very own recipe for success.
BUILDING A TEAM
The first step? Establishing a solid team. Initially we thought one conference co-ordinator would suffice. Thankfully, we quickly realised that a team of five from different backgrounds and year groups was much more realistic. We now had the vital basis upon which to create our masterpiece, and could take on different roles, depending on our stage at university and previous experience.
So we started to add ingredients to the ‘conference cauldron’. The initial mix involved arranging our venue, date and format. Fortunately our location was easy to decide, as the Medical School Building regularly holds similar events at no cost to such student organisations. The date proved trickier as few slots were available by the time we were ready to book. Settling with the end of January, we assumed that this would suit most students.
SHORT AND SWEET
Regarding the day’s format, we agreed to make our first venture short and sweet. With a sprinkling of science, a measure of medicine and a healthy dose of networking for all involved, we hoped the day would be to everyone’s taste.
The major issue was arranging the perfect blend of content to attract our target audience. Our perseverance and efficient usage of the committee’s email paid off. Using our student and staff connections, we were delighted with our final four speakers. It was a pleasure to welcome Ian Russell (Chief Executive, Society for Endocrinology) to open the day’s proceedings.
SPREADING THE WORD
In order to whip up some interest, strong advertising was paramount. Although emails, word of mouth and noticeboards had their merits, adding a good pinch of social media into the mix was how we drew in the bulk of our audience.
Clearly, the interest in endocrinology is far-reaching, and we were pleased to receive abstract submissions from students across the UK. Three were selected to give oral presentations, in addition to a poster presentation area.
THE DAY DAWNS
Within no time at all, 23 January 2016 was upon us. Would our months of planning and preparation pay off? The proof of the pudding was in the eating! Our three student presenters delved into various aspects of endocrinology, managing to cover all facets of the bio-psycho-social model. Our guest speakers, Colin Duncan, Jessica Ivy and Rebecca Reynolds, gave us some food for thought regarding their own specialist areas. Dr Duncan’s use of the role of TV’s ‘Dr House’ was particularly creative, as he approached clinical scenarios relating to polycystic ovarian syndrome.
'With a sprinkling of science, a measure of medicine and a healthy dose of networking for all involved, we hoped the day would be to everyone's taste'
Posters explored a range of topics, from reproductive biology to medical education. We were fortunate enough to have a great panel of guest judges to help us choose the recipient of each award. Thanks to the skills of the committee’s sponsorship convenor, prizes included a journal subscription from the Society for Endocrinology, and book vouchers from Blackwell’s bookshop.
The icing on the cake came in the form of a delicious spread from the resident catering company. The coffee and cupcakes provided the perfect opportunity for all attendees to mingle, and fuelled the poster presentation session in particular.
In order to build on our success, we asked all delegates to complete a quick survey following the event. It seems that all our ingredients largely worked well together, providing a fun and informative day for delegates and speakers alike. Ideas for development include the addition of an interactive session, and consideration of travel bursaries for those further afield.
For ourselves as organisers, the experience has been invaluable. Networking with our peers, researchers, clinicians and students outside the university has been both good fun and beneficial for us and for EUES.
The process was by no means plain sailing and, with everyone in the team on different schedules, it meant meetings and delegated tasks were tricky to arrange. However, we all feel this has greatly improved our communication, teamwork and time management skills – vital ingredients in any career path.
So, looking back, what is the perfect recipe for a successful conference? Start early, get a date to suit your target audience, make the most of the contacts you have and above all, assemble a top-notch team ready to rise to the challenge. The cherry on top? Serving up a good cup of coffee!
Lisa Akyol, 4th year medical student, University of Edinburgh
Philippa Boothroyd, 3rd year medical student, University of Edinburgh
Lisa and Philippa were part of the conference organising committee along with David Henshall, Rachel Stewart and YuJing Ooi. You can find out more about EUES at euesoc.wix.com/eues or http://bit.ly/23NOrzr.