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Feeling the power of SMACC

What is SMACC?

SMACC is a not-for-profit health promotion charity focused on growing free, open-access medical education (FOAMed). SMACC is also a high-impact critical care academic meeting fused with cutting-edge social media to deliver innovation with education. Since its inception in 2013, SMACC has become the most exciting date on the international critical care education calendar, bringing together all the critical care specialties (emergency medicine, anaesthesia, rural GPs, pre-hospital and retrieval medicine and intensive care) on a modern stage.


Dr Cian McDermott

SMACC gathers a community of medical professionals from around the world to produce FOAMed. The FOAMed movement has organically grown a global following on social media, which in turn has driven the success and appeal of the SMACC conference.

“The mission of SMACC is to provide high-quality medical education in an exciting and inspirational manner,” says Dr Roger Harris, one of the founding forces of the SMACC series and an intensive care specialist based in Sydney, Australia. Dr Harris devised the concept of SMACC, along with Dr Oli Flower and Dr Chris Nickson, both intensivists working in Australia.

“The success of SMACC lies with its ability to re-invent the traditional medical conference due to the fact that it is not affiliated with any one particular college or association,” Dr Harris contends.

The Irish connection

Dr John Hinds, Consultant Anaesthetist and Intensivist at Craigavon Hospital, Armagh, died tragically in July 2015. Dr Hinds was a motorsports enthusiast and provided voluntary rapid-response trauma medical cover at the Motorcycle Union of Ireland racing events. He was a hugely inspirational member of the international SMACC community. The SMACC-DUB opening ceremony featured a tribute to his life, work and passions. His partner Dr Janet Acheson delivered a moving speech to a packed auditorium about his life with her and work in motorsports. Since his untimely death last year, a physician-staffed Helicopter Emergency Medical Service for Northern Ireland was announced, a project that Dr Hinds had campaigned for.


Symbolic: The Life of Dr John Hinds was celebrated at SMACC-DUB

There is a strong spirit of philanthropy throughout the SMACC community. Earlier in 2016, the conference organising committee decided to auction the final precious SMACC-DUB ‘Golden Ticket’ to the highest bidder. The Irish homelessness charity Focus Ireland was chosen as the benefactor of the charity auction and €5,000 was raised to help its work to end homelessness in Ireland.

Pre-conference workshops

There were several pre-SMACC conference workshops on Monday, 13 June, throughout Dublin. SMACC FORCE was an all-day pre-hospital and retrieval medical workshop in the Helix, Dublin, that brought together an elite group of the world’s most innovative educators. Some 200 delegates enjoyed clinical updates on controversial topics and live simulated demos from world leaders in pre-hospital medicine. The spirit of Dr Hinds was keenly felt at this one-of-a-kind workshop.

SMACC MINI featured a critical care paediatric workshop for the non-paediatrician.

The nearby Trinity College Dublin anatomy lab was the backdrop for the SMACC Procedural Skills Cadaver Lab. This workshop showcased invasive resuscitation procedures such as percutaneous tracheostomy, resuscitative thoracotomy and venous access skills in a hands-on, supervised environment.

The SMACC Emergency Ultrasound workshop featured an international team of point-of-care ultrasound educators for the beginner and more seasoned emergency ultrasound enthusiasts.

Several innovative workshops featured key skills in the resuscitation room environment — stress innoculation training to help clinicians to perform better under pressure, critical communication skills, active listening and the art of the difficult conversation.

My highlights from SMACCDUB

Never before has a medical conference been more eagerly anticipated and SMACC-DUB certainly lived up to its billing. From the amazing sound and light show that opened the conference on Tuesday morning at 8am (more like a late-night rave), to the closing ceremony on Thursday evening, SMACC-DUB was an astounding celebration of international medical education and entertainment. 

The conference opened with the Dr John Hinds Plenary Session. Dr Scott Weingart, a well-known emergency physician intensivist from New York, US, recorded a podcast live on stage and spoke about the importance of mindfulness and meditation in a busy emergency department work environment in order to maintain balance and wellbeing in everyday life. Dr Sara Gray, an emergency medicine physician from Canada, lit up the conference Twitter feed with her take on the importance of a peri-mortem Caesarean section.

Day two was action-packed and opened with a fantastic female panel. TedMed speaker Dr Resa Lewiss educated a spellbound audience about leadership traits. Australian paediatric social worker Ms Liz Crowe talked us through love, wellbeing and resilience in the critical care arena. That afternoon featured keynote hot topic pro-con style debates about controversial topics such as hard collars in trauma, thrombolysis of submissive pulmonary embolism and ICU care for the elderly person.

Sonowars is a SMACC staple and features a live on-stage ultrasound demonstration using all the audiovisual capabilities of the Convention Centre. A simulated car crash (complete with VW Beetle) allowed European, USA and Australian contestants to test out their pre-hospital ultrasound skills live on stage.

The SMACC social calendar was also lively and an important part of the whole conference. The SMACC Gala Dinner showcased the seven-floor Guinness Storehouse in St James’s Gate, chosen for its fantastic surroundings and historic connections. International guests to Dublin were treated to a fantastic night of live music, food and entertainment. SMACC CRAIC continued late into the night and  it was a perfect showcase for a modern Dublin.

New and emerging technology also featured at SMACC-DUB this year. The SMACC-DUB media booth in the conference exhibition hall was open for live podcast recordings by SMACC speakers and affiliated websites. A Genius Bar in the Learning Zone was manned by SMACC team volunteers to help new users set up social media accounts and get involved in the SMACC live conversation on Twitter. A new point-of-care mobile ultrasound system was on display for use. Phillips Lumify features a USB-compatible transducer for connection to a personal Android device and this has really set the standard for competitors.

My perspectives from the organising committee

Being on the SMACC organising committee this year for SMACC-DUB has given me an amazing opportunity to glimpse behind the curtain of this impressive voluntary organisation and offer my support to something I believe is really changing healthcare for the better. I met some fantastic and passionate people in Dublin who will change the way I think and act forever.

I can be sure that the future of critical care is safe in the hands of the current and next generation of healthcare workers. SMACC-DUB filled me with enthusiasm on the long flight back to Melbourne to my day job. A new phrase was coined — SMACC DOWN — the feeling of disappointment when an important event finishes! Now I just can’t wait for DAS SMACC in 2017 in Berlin! 

SMACC fast facts

The first SMACC conference was held in Sydney in 2013 and has now become one of the biggest critical care conferences in the world.

The 2015 conference was held in Chicago, US, and attracted 2,000 delegates from around the world.

SMACC Chicago trended number one in the world on Twitter during the conference.

Podcasts from the 2015 conference have exceeded an impressive one million downloads.

The first release of SMACC-DUB tickets sold out in eight hours, with the second release selling out in an incredibly fast 15 minutes, and the last release selling out in seven minutes.

SMACC has gained global acclaim for its focus on ‘edutainment’ — a term coined to describe the delivery of education in an engaging and entertaining manner.

DAS SMACC will be held in Berlin, Germany, on June 26-29, 2017.

For more information, see the website — the conference talks will be released there in the coming months free of charge.

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