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Connecting through COVID – a documentary

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Towards the end of 2021, I was asked to give a talk at the EAPS congress. I was given the title ’The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on medical training‘ in the stream entitled ‘COVID-19: Collateral Damage’.

The director’s commentary

When I opened the e-mail I thought, ‘Wow! I love the challenge of working on this topic’. Even though I was talking at the congress, I didn’t want to present just one person’s perspective, nor did I want it to turn into a literature review. 

The changes in medical education throughout the pandemic had felt quite exciting and revolutionary to me, so why collateral damage?

More than anything else, I thought to myself that this was a beautiful opportunity to somehow give back and contribute to the FOAMEd community.

As with many other projects, I opened a digital note and started to capture random ideas. They would come to on the bus, the train, and at work. On a surprisingly warm and sunny day – the last day of a ski trip in the Alps, I decided to go for a run on my own, instead of hitting the slopes with friends. During that run, all the messy thoughts from that digital note coalesced into the idea of creating a documentary film.

I felt the need to talk to educators and experts who had done some incredible work during the pandemic. The selfless information sharing was fascinating to me; in a way, the pandemic has actually brought us closer to the idea of a global medical community with universal access to medical knowledge. Positive thoughts were mixed with uncertainty: would those experts share my ideas? If this film came together, how would I spread the message outside my own bubble? An inspirational book, some thought-provoking tweets, rediscovering a sense of belonging to communities and new friendships on the horizon provided encouragement.

Then I crashed back to reality, to my professional isolation. I felt that, in a way, this project giant was going to be my way out. As details became clearer, I realised this film could become a metaphor for what the medical education community had been through. The goals were clear, but the doing of the deed needed to happen online and involved mastering new skills in order to deliver them.

Let me give you the sequence of the project I had in mind:

Creating a storyline ➡️ researching experts ➡️ sending out cold emails ➡️ online interviews ➡️ OMG How do you actually make this a documentary ➡️ watching an online documentary filmmaking Masterclass ➡️ audio storyline aka the ‘blind assembly’ ➡️ video editing ➡️ the David-phase ➡️ draft versions and feedback loops ➡️ getting rid of the amateur feel to the film (as much I possibly can) ➡️ premieres ➡️ advertising

Does it look intimidating to you? It definitely has felt like that to me. I had minimal experience in the skills this project needed. How should I go about it? My plan was to learn those skills as I went along and see what came out at the end

If you’re anything like me, once you hit ‘send’ on that first cold email, you’re fully committed. Let the obstacle become the way! Concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. Always forward. 

And now here I am, with the final version of the COVID MedEd documentary film sitting on my computer desktop and there’s only one last ‘send’ button to go. 

Gratefully dedicated to the amazing faculty featured in the film and to supporters I was lucky enough to have beside me on this journey.

Featuring (in order of appearance)

Alberto Medina – Paediatric Intensivist

Assim Javaid – Trainee Paediatric Emergency Physician

Scott Weingart – Emergency Intensivist

Constantinos Kanaris – Paediatric Intensivist

Sheetal Gandotra – Pulmonary and Critical Care Physician

Ffion Davis – Consultant Emergency Physician

Andrew Tagg – Random man off the street

Eniko Kovacs – Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Physician

Teresa Chan – Emergency Physician

Hari Krishnan – Paediatric Intensivist

Tessa Davis – Paediatric Emergency Physician and all-round superstar

Sandra Viggers – Trainee Anaesthetist

Dr Glaucomflecken – Ophthalmologist

Sarah Mojorad – Science Communicator

Jonathan Kajjimu – Medical Student

About the authors

  • Paediatric Intensive Care consultant with passionate interest in point-of-care ultrasound and FOAMed. Proud European, rookie globalist. He/Him.

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