- Can I learn more about the Forum if I did not have the opportunity to attend?
Yes, of course, these questions and answers describe everything that has happened.
- What is the EFPT Forum?
EFPT = European Federation of Psychiatric Trainees is an independent, international federation of national associations of young psychiatrists. It is the first and oldest organization in Europe, which covers young future specialists. It is a respected organization, partner of the European and World Psychiatric Association, European College of Neuropsychopharmacology and European Union of Medical Specialists, which represents the voice of more than 20,000 physicians in psychiatric training. The Forum itself is a professional meeting and is hosted by the country where the president of the organization currently operates. The Forum is the highlight of the annual activities of young psychiatrists who work together in teams internationally, regarding the preference of their interest: research, child and adolescent psychiatry, psychotherapy, etc.
- When and where did the Forum take place?
July 10th – 14th in Prague, we did not want to overlap with any other popular educational event in Europe. The base of the conference was The Masaryk Dormitory, a strategically located historic building, close to the center, metro, international airport and train station. Fortunately, the first Czechoslovak President T.G. Masaryk donated 2.5 million crowns in 1924 to begin the construction. Today, after 95 years, the place still serves university students, it has modern conference rooms and allowed us to accommodate the participants under one roof.
- How was the conference organized and who organized it?
Preparations began one year in advance. The whole event was led by enthusiastic trainees from the Psychiatric Hospital Bohnice and The National Institute of Mental Health. In the 27 years of the tradition of EFPT, the professionalism increased and expectations of participants are higher each year. Local Organising Committee went through some obstacles and failures. The work was done only during free time or weekends. As a leader of the organizing committee, I can confirm that it was an unforgettable experience for all of us. You deal with everything, from where the mineral waters should stand, how many participants are on a special diet and what to serve them, controlling registrations, sending visa invitations, accommodating, etc. And above all that you are responsible for the content of the programme. We addressed several event agencies, but they stepped back. I guess they knew it would be not profitable for them. But in the end, the greatest feeling is that even though it was tiring, it was only in our hands with no influence from third parties – organized by trainees for trainees.
- How many participants were there and where did they come from?
150 participants from 46 countries. One of the largest if not the largest EFPT Forum ever! Almost the whole of Europe covered. Just the delegations from Iceland, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania were missing. Invitation of Iceland stays a though issue because most of the trainees (and the number is very low) practice in other northern countries and it was not easy to reach them. Bosnia could not form a delegation this year and the delegation from Albania apologized for health reasons. In 2019, the 2nd year of popular Overseas program supporting 5 trainees from outside Europe took place again. The jury selected delegates from Australia, Indonesia, Tunisia, Brazil and El-Salvador.
- What was the program like?
Rich and balanced. The first day of arrival participants experienced an unconventional excursion in the city of Prague. We approached a non-profit organization that employs homeless people who officially guide tourists through the streets and show the city from a completely different perspective by sharing their personal stories. Many of these tour guides seek psychiatric help. They had different backgrounds – a nuclear physicist or a past member of national philharmonic or a man who decided to live in the streets voluntarily. Impressions persisted until the next day when there was an endless discussion after Professor Norman Sartorius plenary lecture entitled „Tasks and Challenges for Psychiatrists of the Future”. The discussion was opened by a trainee, reflecting professor’s thoughts on Stigma, making a “coming out”, that she felt very embarrassed by having a tour guide like that the day before, stigmatizing that person at the beginning, but changed her attitude after she heard the person´s personal story. She admitted openly she felt ashamed for her feelings. It was surprising that a wave of similar reactions followed her comment. I do not think this is any alarming or critical information about the current young psychiatry situation. Rather, it must be acknowledged that such feelings are natural in most of us. Professor Sartorius called for the word “Stigma” to be discontinued in psychiatry because it can reduce to emphasize constantly something negative. He recommended us to rather talk positively about psychiatry and psychiatrists, how the discipline evolved and what success was achieved. If there is a ranking, then Norman Sartorius is one of the TOP 10 mental health experts in the world, he was brilliant and despite hundreds of publications in the most cited journals, achieving awards for specific scientific results, he did not forget to approach the participants in a very personal way. He warned us not to leave further from somatic medicine and emphasized how we are attached together and encouraged us to be more general doctors. He joked about recent injury with his left hand, how he had to look for a specialist for forefingers, because he was first examined by an expert on thumbs, who obviously could not help him. In addition to the plenary lecture, he took part in a session called “Ask the Expert” where he answered dozen of different questions. For instance, how he sees psychiatrists who are speaking publicly about some politician´s mental health condition (e.g. you may have noticed how a certain group of psychiatrists in the USA comment President Trump) and obviously he disagreed with this. He outlined that for a successful science project it is necessary to select roles beforehand and clearly define the order of the authors. Advised us to only work on what we care about (what we are interested in) and what we really have time for. If we know that the project will last for a year and we plan to change personal life in 6 months, such as moving to another country, planning children and so on, we should not promise ourselves to the project. These points may seem quite banal, but Professor Sartorius pointed out that the above mistakes are still a main complication in the most professional scientific teams.
I greatly appreciate that we had such distinguished guests at the welcome session who influence psychiatric training and development of psychiatry both nationally and internationally. The presence of the Minister of Health of the Czech Republic Mgr. et Mgr. Adam Vojtěch confirmed the importance of the event. He repeated how important the improvement of psychiatry in his elected period is. Professor Pavel Mohr, the current President of the Czech Psychiatric Association, along with the Past President Professor Martin Anders supported the event during preparation and encouraged young doctors that these meetings are future of our field. Dr. Jozef Dragašek, Honorary Secretary of the Section of Psychiatry of the European Union Medical Specialists (UEMS), followed by the Chair of Early Career Psychiatrists both at EPA (European Psychiatric Association) and WPA (World Psychiatric Association) Dr. Mariana Pinto Da Costa introduced their organizations and our close collaboration. We shared the last minutes with the Past President Dr. Alex Nawka. Alex is the pioneer of EFPT activities and who raised the awareness of the organization in the Czech Republic and organized the first successful Forum in Prague in 2011. Today we are among the 6 countries that have been given this opportunity to organize the Forum more than once.
The most important thing at the Forum is the time for trainees. The first day each country representative presented the „Country Reports“. Themes like: what is new in training, what is positive, what is negative, how is the national trainee association active, were covered. Hearing how 46 countries differ was fascinating. For the Czech Republic, I reported that the studies carried out so far show a very low interest of medical students in psychiatry, it is only 3-4% of medical students considering the field, eventually, only 1% enters the field. This fact can endanger ongoing reform of psychiatry, which can only rely on a very good training programme and well-educated specialists in the future. The positive thing is that the section of young psychiatrists in the Czech Republic increased the number of members by 10 times in 2 years, have clear and organized information about specialty exam on our web and finally, we had a chance to host the EFPT Forum!
The welcome dinner took place in the Academic Restaurant, a restaurant in the style of antique architecture of First Czechoslovak Republic. I am extremely pleased that Sanja Zupanić, a great trainee from Slovenia, answered positively my request one day before the start, after an eight-hour bus journey, and sang beautifully opera “Song to the moon” by Antonín Dvořák. Long applause and positive comments from the audience is an unforgettable moment.
The Day 2 was hosted in Psychiatric Hospital Bohnice, where participants were welcomed by the director, Dr. Martin Hollý, who described the history of one of the European largest psychiatric hospitals and how it modernized and became more accessible for the public in the past years. Professor Jiří Horáček, who represented National Institute of Mental Health, gave a plenary lecture entitled “Psychedelics: from the translational approach to modeling schizophrenia to novel therapies“Thanks to the EDUmedic company the lecture is recorded and available for free for trainees. Afterwards the „Poster Session“took place. The theme was “Mental Health in the Age of the Internet”. The winner was selected Dr. Gilad Eger from Israel with his poster: “From bio-markers to digital markers”, the central idea is that the internet can be used as a digital marker because DSM criteria can be measured digitally; these data are objective, quantitative, continuous and on-line.
I am delighted to say that dr. Karel Nešpor, one of the leaders of addiction medicine in the Czech Republic accepted the invitation and gave a talk with practical exercises on „Laughter and Relaxation“. He explained to the participants how to laugh “for no reason” and how to praise ourselves, both very very important for everyday’s life.
Both clinical visits, a more clinical venue at the Psychiatric Hospital Bohnice, and a more scientific venue at the National Institute of Mental Health, went well, led by the trainees to the acute close wards, rehabilitation wards, as well as hippo therapy. The feedback brought a winning experience – the ability to practice with rTMS (repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation).
It would seem that after such an intense day, there is no energy for the evening. But there is no better party than to experience the “International Night” which everyone was waiting for. Each country presented itself with a cultural sketch and shared a national drink or food.
Beginning the third day with a sleep deficit, participants were able to choose from 2 interactive workshops and the UEMS Child and Adolescent Psychiatry /CAP/ training day. Professor Bankovská Motlová, an expert in psychoeducation in schizophrenia in the Czech Republic offered a very practical overview on this topic and I think the biggest reward for her was that trainees from Lithuania invited her to make an extended version of the course in their country. The second workshop was prepared by trainees themselves on the topic: “Improving Skills in Transcultural Psychiatry and Psychotraumatology”. Five lecturers shared their experience of working with patients who are refugees, affected by war, or even sharing experience from a mission with Doctors without Borders.
The UEMS CAP Training Day was represented by an expert from Manchester, Dr. Bernadka Dubicka, who presented the topic very up to date and conceived it controversially: „Internet and social media – a blessing or a curse for child and adolescent mental health”, Dr. Olga Glaszner spoke about sleep disorders in childhood with current therapeutic options. Dr. Michael Goetz /IACAPAP Vice-President/ talked about children growing up with parents suffering from serious mental illnesses, which he managed to perfectly integrate child and adult psychiatry and attract both interested groups at the Forum.
Professor Gil Zalsman from Israel (chair of education at the executive committee of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology), the most competent person in suicide research in child and adolescent psychiatry, shared with us his journey in science and gave several clinical advice. He said that it is enough to follow 3 basic steps and we can be where he is now: 1. Pick a specific topic, 2. find mentor, 3. built a database. And with a sincere smile stable on his face, he added that if someone wants to achieve something in the academic world, one can’t just wait for someone to discover him/her. We need to approach opportunities actively with “little sharp elbows”. The second plenary speaker Dr. Julian Beezhold (Secretary General of the European Psychiatric Association), followed up with necessities for success: 1. Rejection / Failure and Resilience and Perseverance, 2. Making mistakes and acknowledging and Learning from them, 3.Valuing diversity – both People and Opinions. The lecture ended with a witty video where a young man stands up and begins to dance in the middle of nowhere, he was a bit uncoordinated, and suddenly another person joins him and another one afterwards. In the end, hundreds of dancers were on the field. The parallel was applied on EFPT where, in 1992, few enthusiasts began to “dance” in London and look how big group is dancing today!
The evening ended with a boat cruise on the Vltava River. It symbolically floated into the final phase of the Forum.
It has been said that the time of the conference is primarily focused on the activities of trainees, but so far many important speakers have been described, so what else the trainees worked on?
In addition to the poster session, country reports, the participants joined the “Working Groups” every day. These groups are the core of EFPT. The aim was getting to know each other better, set new projects and surveys to be carried out in the upcoming years and to harmonize education across Europe. There are many great things planned with “Test Your Own Training” platform, Psychotherapy Guidebook 2nd edition or our Exchange Programme, etc. Have a look on the website to read more or even join the working group!
It seems like, lots of sitting during the conference.
No, not at all. The program was balanced with health events, participants could jog, play tennis, volleyball or football, all organized by Local Organising Committee.
Were there any awards at the Forum?
The EFPT Porto Research Award was personally received by Dr. Adrian Chrobak from Poland, a second-year trainee, who is investigating motor deficits in schizophrenia and affective disorders using neuroimaging methods. He discovered a novel finding – convergence insufficiency with unilateral exophoria at near in schizophrenia. Another award, symbolically born in 2011 in Prague, is the “Award of Excellence” and the winner this year was Dr. Wim Duhayon et al. Their project “Passionate Psychiatrist”, where Dutch experts regularly meet their residents and medical students in an informal setting and share their motivations and ambitions in the field of psychiatry, has gained so much popularity that it is now officially supported by their University and it is continuously increasing the number of people interested in psychiatry.
How was the closing ceremony?
As every year, the Forum ends with General Assembly. It is always a long day, but very necessary, so the organization can continue to operate in a structured and financially healthy way. National Trainee Associations from Bulgaria and Georgia became full members of the EFPT family. The new leadership of EFPT was successfully elected. The organization itself was handed in to Dr. George Stercu´s (current President) hands and his team. The 28th EFPT Forum will take place next year in Bucharest. The end was emotional, with such a great group of people with whom you have been working for a year and created relationships, it is hard to say goodbye, as well as to the great Forum participants.
Is that really all?
No, more has happened, but personal experience is non-transferable and something must remain secret only among the participants.
Finally, I would like to thank the Local Organising Committee and to all volunteers involved. Thanks to great EFPT Board in 2018-2019, which has been supporting me all year long. Thanks to all the General Managers in 2018-2019. Thanks to all the participants and readers of this text.
EFPT PAST PRESIDENT