SMACC, Down But Not Out

Simply put, the three days of the SMACC 2013 conference were greatest three days of my professional life. I can’t believe it happened, and I can hardly believe it is over.

If, five years ago, you had told me that writing a few case-based Q&As on Toxicology topics and a few posts on William Osler would be the start of a path that would lead me to SMACC 2013 I’d have died laughing. The only person I know who might have had any inkling that FOAM (and whatever it was called before the acronym existed) would take off like it has would have to be my friend, mentor and LITFL co-conspirator Mike Cadogan. But five years ago when he said “this stuff would take over the world”, I did not truly believe him (after all, he is crazy!).

Even seven or so months ago when my old and good friend Oli Flower (from Intensive Care Network), together with the mercurial (and coprolalic) Roger Harris, contacted me about the idea of SMACC it still seemed pie in the sky. Having had the privilege of being a part of Roger and Oli’s Bedside Critical Care conference a few weeks earlier, I did know that they could put on a helluva show. The time frame was tight, but the idea was too good to not give it a shot.

With such a short run in we had to create a programme and organise speakers within a matter of days. To my surprise nearly every speaker we approached recklessly jumped aboard — even the amazing Scott Weingart was instantaneous with his enthusiastic support — even with the assigned talk titles (most of which were created out of a stream of consciousness session in a single night)… though many later delighted in bagging me for the titles and topics on the SMACC stage!

SMACC emcrit mind of resus

Scott Weingart talks about the ‘Mind of the Resuscitationist’ (click image to enlarge – photo by @rfdsdoc)

It wasn’t all plain sailing though. The project nearly fell apart when I suggested we change the name SMACC to FOCC (Free Open-access Critical Care) — Roger thought I was as crazy as a Cadogan, and I was worried that the project might suffer from sense of humour failure. We put our differences aside and pushed on. From then on I could concentrate my efforts on promoting the fantastic SMACC projects like the PK SMACC-talks, SMACC CLUB, SimWars, SonoWars and the SMACC app project that Matt Mac Partlin tackled with aplomb. Thankfully Roger, Oli and the rest of the SMACC team would be left with the physical and financial logistics. How they pulled it off I will never really understand. I salute all the SMACC organising committee for their immense efforts:

  • Christine Bowles
  • Minh Le Cong
  • Andrew Baker
  • Matthew Mac Partlin
  • Oliver Flower
  • Roger Harris
  • Lewis Macken
SMACC sonowars sandnsurf

Auckland HEMS were given just an hour to figure out how to teach the audience how to do an early pregnancy ultrasound scan… How often do you see that done in a helicopter? (Click image to enlarge – photo by @sandnsurf)

While it is impossible to name everyone who contributed to making the SMACC experiment the revelatory experience that it proved to be, I’d like to highlight a few of my personal champions:

  • James Rippey (The SonoCave) – my own original ultrasound mentor, who showed what an incredible educator he is by masterminding SonoWars.
  • Jon Gatward (@jgatward) and John Vassiliadis (@johnrachelv) and the SimWars organising team for creating an enthralling educational spectacle.
  • StEmlyns and the GB SimWars Team led by Simon Carley — their presence lit up SMACC, and Simon in particular has been added to my pantheon of emergency medicine heroes.
  • Scott Weingart, Cliff Reid (Resus.ME) and Joe Lex (Free Emergency Talks) — these three were already in the hero’s pantheon, at SMACC they merely showed why. Sitting alongside Scott, Cliff and Simon in the ‘Mind of the Resuscitationist’ plenary was a surreal experience for me. Unfortunately, I was hit so hard by the talk that Cliff gave — perhaps the greatest, most inspirational and moving emergency medicine critical care talk ever given — that I forgot most of my own talk that followed (apologies to the audience!).
  • Victoria Brazil (@SocraticEM) — the undoubted star of the conference. We would have liked the SMACC speaking panel to be less male dominated, but that was just quantity. The Fabulous Females of FOAM that were on the SMACC stage more than evened out the imbalance with the quality of their presentations. Hats off to the FFF!
  • Professor Staghorn (@ProfStaghorn) — his appearance at the SMACC opening really set the tone for the rest of the event!
SMACC SimWars TeamGB

SimTeamGB – the SMACC 2013 SimWars Champions (Click image to enlarge – photo by @I_C_N)

Now that I look back, despite my initial trepidation, the success of SMACC was inevitable. Why? Because SMACC represented a community. A community that crossed professional barriers, hierarchies of seniority and international borders. A community that is innovative, inspirational, generous and dedicated to learning and teaching anyone, anywhere, anytime. All SMACC needed was for a few hundred of these people to turn up and the magic would happen. That there were almost 700 people from around the world (I think the brilliantly skeptical Katrin Hruska (@Akutdok) from Sweden wins the ‘miles traveled’ award) meant the synergy was impossible to contain. Indeed, the synergy spilled out across the globe through Twitter and our friends across the world contributed hugely. About 400 attendees were using Twitter, with another 1,000 or so contributors from around the world. The final stats are not in yet, but this information from Symplur on the #smacc2013 hashtag speaks for itself:

SMACC Symplur

Click image to enlarge

My deepest thanks to all who came. This was without doubt the friendliest conference ever held. Such is the power of social media it was like a reunion with friends we had never met. My one regret (other than proving that I am expert on Jackassness by lining myself up to speak after Cliff Reid!) was that I only had time to truly meet a fraction of the attendees. Hopefully there will be more time to mix and mingle at SMACC 2014 — because that is where the magic happens. Medicine is about people, education is about people, technology used properly is about people, and the SMACC ethos is all about people.

That’s right, there is going to be a SMACC 2014. Fortunately you will soon have all the FOAM created by SMACC 2013 to tide you over for a year.

SMACC2 will be held in Brisbane the Gold Coast, from March 19th to 21st 2014. We hope to get as much feedback and constructive criticism as possible because we know that SMACC 2013, as great as it was, was far from perfect. We want to make the follow up event deserving of all those willing to stand up and shout with Weingart, “WE ARE CRITICAL CARE!”. We want it to be a conference worthy of you.

Addendum 6th May 2013

If you want the unofficial inside scoop on SMACC2, check out the ICN post ‘SMACC2: The smacc talk has already begun…‘ by Oli and Roger — See you in the Gold Coast March 2014!

SMACC FFF by dreapadoirtas

We’ll hoping to see even more Fabulous Females of FOAM (#FFF) at SMACC 2014 (Photo taken in the SMACC Lounge by @dreapadoirtas)

SMACC South Australia BreGsam

“We are Critical Care!” – some awesome SMACCers from South Australia (click image to enlarge – photo by @BreGsam)

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Comments

  1. says

    Aaiii… but when are you gonna put some vids up for those who had to work while you guys were partying it up?
    We’d pay for it too.

    • says

      Hi Rahul
      Don’t worry -- as soon as the editing and conversion to appropriate file formats etc is done it will start to go online. We have day jobs too! :-)
      Good things take time
      Chris

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