A lot can be said – and rest assured will be said – about how the COVID-19 pandemic drove behavioral change on a global scale. While plenty of attention has been paid to the negative changes brought on by the pandemic, I'd like to dedicate this article to the extraordinarily positive changes I've witnessed in the dental community over the past year and a half.
As an educator during the pandemic, I had to rethink the way I teach, communicate, and interact with students and audiences. I am accustomed to the energy of the live classroom experience where we as speakers feed off the energy of the audience to calibrate the tone of our lecture. Nuances like facial expressions, body language or even the characteristics of the venue all contribute to how I present during live lectures.
When I initially began presenting remotely, speaking through a computer felt like wearing a blindfold. It was challenging, to say the least.
But if it's tough for a speaker to be a talking to a computer, it's got to be much tougher for an audience to sit and listen. This meant that my voice and message had to as polished and pristine as possible to capture and keep my audience's attention. Key didactic elements like enunciation, cadence and the amount of information covered become more critical in a virtual environment.
Despite the challenges, the Spear community has conquered this new virtual arena. Since April of 2020, I've participated in dozens of Spear webinars and virtual seminars, Faculty Club Roundtables, virtual symposia, podcasts, and radio shows.
For our virtual seminars in particular, the Q&A sessions that follow each 90-minute lecture block allows our resident faculty to interact with our members in a more engaging and intimate format than we'd ever experienced during a campus seminar.
A closer look at Spear Faculty-Led Study Club Meetings
It was clear to our faculty how we could use the virtual format to our advantage and provide our members with a more intimate learning experience from anywhere.
- 40-minute introductory lecture
- 30-minute breakout session
- 30-minute lecture
- 20-minute Q&A
Each 40-minute introductory lecture is augmented with multiple poll questions. This format not only helps our members take a more active role in discussions, but also allows us as presenters to understand the context and characteristics of the clubs in attendance.
The presentation itself revolves around a specific treatment planning topic, and this first lecture block ends with the introduction of a patient who presents with a condition related to the topic.
Each study club then goes to individual breakout rooms for independent discussions about how they would proceed clinically while applying the concepts introduced during the introductory lecture. Finally, we reconvene so faculty presenters can present the therapy rendered (along with some additional polling) before opening the virtual floor for questions.
The positive feedback we received following our first event made it clear to us that this faculty-led virtual study club format was here to stay. After our first event, I went on to conduct a series of live study club sessions involving dozens of Spear study clubs across the U.S. and Canada.
The global potential of the Spear community
And in July of this year, I had the enormous privilege of facilitating a first for Spear Study Clubs – a special session bringing together seven Spear study clubs located in Ireland, Poland, and Israel.
As I was wrapping up the session, I realized that our Q&A session had extended 20 minutes beyond the allotted time. We had become so engaged with questions from the group that one club in Jerusalem were still online at nearly 11pm in their time zone!
Before closing the session, I noted how incredible it was that our group was able to seamlessly discuss a complex clinical case while located thousands of miles away from one another across the globe.
To illustrate my point, I shared a story about a lecture tour I did in Southeast Asia back in 2011. During a stop in Hong Kong, I FaceTimed my 12-year-old son from the hotel lobby. Halfway through the conversation, I was overcome with the feeling that I was witnessing a historic moment and decided to film our conversation.
When he asked why I was recording, I told my son, “I am on the other side of the world, talking to and watching you through my cell phone – I guess I come from a different era, but I feel an obligation to document this special moment!”
To me, this moment reminded me of when my dad filmed their TV when they were airing the Apollo 13 expedition so he could capture the first time a man walked on the moon. Meanwhile, my son shot me a peculiar expression as if to say, you are one weird dude.
I suppose our ability to be amazed by technological breakthrough is commensurate with the era in which we were born. Personally, this global study club experience left me charged with excitement and a bit of nostalgia as I remembered my dad discussing breakthroughs in his childhood like the moon landing and his family's first color TV.
The next evolution of Spear Study Clubs
The COVID-19 pandemic certainly took all of us by surprise. We had to reinvent ourselves on many levels and continue to do so today. Most of us are back at full speed in our practices, but the need for quality education is more acute than ever.
The digital evolution of Spear Study Clubs offers a unique opportunity for clinicians globally – and it goes beyond the interactive format of our faculty-led live events. Now Spear Study Club leaders and members can benefit from incredible opportunities to be challenged and learn from exceptional clinicians across the globe.
Personally, I am looking forward to seeing what this global evolution for Spear Education has in store for all of us.
Ricardo Mitrani, D.D.S., M.S.D., is a member of Spear Resident Faculty. Join Dr. Mitrani and other Spear resident faculty in upcoming faculty-led Study Club events by starting a Spear Study Club in your area – anywhere on the globe.