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Educational Activities

Eliat International Educational Course

The First Eilat International Course on “The Pharmacological Treatment of Epilepsy” took place at the Princess Hotel in Eilat, Israel, 18 to 25 September 2005. The course (conducted in English) included sessions on: Pharmacology of Antiepileptic Drugs (AEDs); Pharmacokinetics and Therapeutic Drug Monitoring (TDM); Drug Interactions’ Assessing Efficacy; and Safety and Optimizing Medical Management. There were tutorial sessions, training workshops, case studies and guided problem-solving exercises every day that were matched to the topics of the lectures given on that day.

There were a total of 101 registered participants in attendance, representing 29 countries. It was the first time a course of this nature was held in Israel, and we are happy to report that 53 bursaries were provided for students/post docs and young participants under the age of 45. Bursary recipients were selected by a special review process, which required each individual to provide a letter of application, a letter of recommendation from the head of their department or lab, their CV and an abstract for poster presentation. Ten posters were put on display each day and discussion with the presenters took place during the coffee breaks with the active participation of teachers and students. Seventeen faculty members took part in the course and most of them stayed throughout the course, spending time with the students and highly committed to their educational task.

The course was held under the auspices of the Eilat Conferences–Organizing Committee (EILAT-OC), the ILAE Commission on European Affairs (CEA), the European Epilepsy Academy (EUREPA) and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

The course's organizing committee was: Meir Bialer, Israel, Chairperson; Michel Baulac, France; Svein I. Johannessen, Norway; Kristina Malmgren, Sweden; Emilio Perucca, Italy; and Torbjorn Tomson, Sweden.

Each day the course started at 9:00 a.m. and continued until 18:30 or 19:00 and the students were encouraged to ask questions during and after the sessions. The students, who were young neurologists and neuroscientists primarily from Eastern Europe, were indeed starved for knowledge and guidelines. Some of the students continued their discussions with faculty members until after 19:00 and at breakfast before the beginning of the lectures. All faculty members and students stayed in the same hotel and had breakfast, lunch and dinner together. This kind of setting allowed for plenty of informal discussion between students and teachers and even shy students whose English was not perfect felt comfortable to approach faculty. It was obvious that most of the students could not have been exposed to such a high level of educational lectures in the courses in their home country. Consequently they appreciated the unique opportunity that was provided to them to interact with eminent epileptologists, who are usually very busy during international scientific congresses.

The great success of the First Eilat International Educational Course prompted the organizing committee and the CEA to establish it as a CEA residential course once every two years. Consequently, the second Eilat Educational Course will take place at the same venue in Eilat, Israel on 2 to 9 September, 2007, and 50 bursaries will be awarded to 50 young neurologists who did not attend the first Eilat Course. The ILAE President has emphasized in numerous occasions that epilepsy education is the major goal of his term. The spirit and the mode of operation of the Eilat Educational Courses fits perfectly with this aim.

Meir Bialer
Course Director    

1st Latin American Summer School On Epilepsy
“Epilepsy: Translating Basic Knowledge into Clinical Applications”
Santa Monica Hotel and Convention Center in Guarulhos, São Paulo, Brazil, from 4-14 February 2007.

Organizing Committee: Elza Márcia Yacubian, Fernando Cendes, Américo Sakamoto, João Pereira Leite, Luiz Eugênio Mello, Alexandre Valotta da Silva.

Out of 184 applications, the organizers selected a total of 49 students to participate in the First Latin American Summer School on Epilepsy.  Twenty-two students were from Spanish speaking Latin American countries (Mexico-3, Honduras-1, Guatemala-2, Cuba-2, Venezuela-1, Colombia-3, Peru-3, Argentina-4, Uruguay-3), 22 students from Brazil, three students from Angola and two students from Mozambique. All but one student (from Honduras) joined the meeting. Their expenses (travel and hotel with full board) were covered. Air tickets for African students were provided by their governments. Four students from Brazil, one from Uruguay and one from Peru paid their own personal expenses to attend the meeting.

We worked through national chapters and colleagues to distribute LASSE information. Although our intent was to have students attend from all Latin America, we did not receive applications from states such as Paraguay, Bolivia and some Central American countries that have been considered in more need.

The evaluations provided by LASSE students are still being analyzed, but our overall impression is that LASSE has exceeded its objectives. The atmosphere was excellent and the students delighted with the experience. Some have even expressed that LASSE has given a new direction to their professional life. Several factors contributed to LASSE success, among them: (a) the hotel location (far from appealing tourist attractions but with good services); (b) teacher's dedication, commitment and generosity; (c) the program that covered different aspects of basic and clinical epileptology allowing a closer interaction of students from these two areas, and (d) the open discussion with contributions of all teachers present at the conference room.  Modifications for future LASSE programs include: increase time for discussion between each conference and provide more free time for students’ interaction and preparation of the research project.

Esper A Cavalheiro
LASSE Director    

The Faculty of 1000 – Task Force Report
The ILAE President and the ILAE Executive Committee have made it clear on several occasions that education is the first priority in the list of their activities. In order to foster educational activities in all parts of the world in the most efficient way, and to facilitate the utilization of resources in a coordinated manner, the ILAE President set up a special Task Force, called the "Faculty of One Thousand", whose mandate is to assemble an international database of professionals with competence, ability and motivation to contribute to ILAE educational initiatives in all areas of epileptology.  These initiatives will not be restricted to congresses, courses and on-site training programs where faculty members may serve as lecturers, tutors or mentors, but will also include distance education (e-learning) modules which are increasingly being developed by ILAE Commissions and are being received extremely well by trainees worldwide.

E-learning activities which are already available include courses on Electroencephalography (stage I) and on Genetics, both of which are run under the coordination of EUREPA. Topics for courses currently in development include Electroencephalography (stage II), Neuroimaging, and Clinical Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapy. These courses are offered to a limited number of successful applicants and, since the same course may be run repeatedly over the same year, they require the dedicated contribution of a significant number of highly qualified e-tutors and e-moderators. Given the interactive nature of distant education activities, e-moderators need to have not only professional expertise, but also special communication and motivation skills, as well as a positive attitude toward the new information and communication technologies.  It is one of the objectives of the Faculty of 1000 Task Force to enroll these dedicated professionals, to keep a record of their special areas of expertise, and to make their abilities available to the educational activities organized by all ILAE Commissions. In due course, it will also be an objective of the Faculty of 1000 Task Force to monitor the quality of the educational activities contributed by individual faculty members.

As a first step, the task force, which is acting in synergy with the Commission on Education, agreed on a list of requirements for inclusion of potential faculty members in a list of nominees:

(1) Peer-recognized professional competence and teaching capabilities, best documented by lecturing experience in national or international courses. Research experience, documented by indexed publications is considered desirable, but not mandatory;

(2) Knowledge of English is highly desirable, and fluency in an additional language beyond the nominee's mother language is an advantage. In any case task force members must have sufficient skills in a widely spoken language to be able to communicate with peers outside their regional borders;

(3)  Nominees will be selected from different disciplines (e.g., clinical epileptology, pediatrics,  neurophysiology, imaging, clinical pharmacology, social support activities, basic science, etc.), to address  the multisciplinary nature of epileptology and the diverse areas of interest and geographical settings of professionals engaged in epilepsy-related activities;

(4) Nominees are presumed to be willing to take part in ILAE-related  educational activities in the future, though specific commitments will not be requested at the time of inclusion in the faculty.

Based on the above criteria, the task force has assembled, with the help of individual ILAE chapters, a list of over 700 candidates from 82 countries in five continents.  Selected candidates are being contacted and invited to become members of the faculty. It is hoped that this initiative will be received positively by many qualified and committed professionals who will eventually provide the backbone for the ambitious educational agenda that the ILAE is developing.

Emilio Perucca
Task Force Chair

The members of the Faculty of 1000 Task Force include Ed Bertram (Charlottesville, U.S.A.), Peter Camfield (Halifax, Canada), Esper Cavalheiro (São Paulo, Brasil), Marco De Curtis (Milano, Italy), Lamine Gueye (Dakar, Senegal), Najib Kissani (Marrakech, Morocco), Kristina Malmgren (Gothenburg, Sweden), Emilio Perucca (Pavia, Italy), Alejandro Scaramelli (Montevideo, Uruguay), Shih-Hui Lim (Singapore) and Gedlie Zenebe (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).

San Servolo Epilepsy Summer School
The idea of organizing an Epilepsy Summer Course at the International School of Neurological Sciences of Venice (ISNV) came to me as soon as I was invited to succeed Diego Fontanari as ISNV President in 2001. In the same year a preparatory committee including myself, Marco de Curtis, Francesco Paladin, Yezekel Ben Ari, Pete Engel, Uwe Heinemann, Istvan Mody,  Nico Moshé, Tim Pedley and Peter Wolf convened in Venice to design a plan. 

The ISNV, located on the island of S Servolo, was founded in 1990 by Diego Fontanari (present Honorary President) and Francesco Paladin (present Director). Its aim is to organize courses conducted by leading international experts in specific fields to provide health professionals with the opportunity to improve their skills in the Neurological Sciences. The training activities of the ISNV take place in the facilities of the Venice International University in San Servolo (Fig. 1) that are ideally suited for residential courses.

The preparatory committee made the following recommendations:

  • The duration of the course should be12-15 days with residence in the island required of the students and of a core group of teachers/tutors.
  • The course should be aimed at developing an integrated and complete view of the “problem of epilepsy.”
  • The training activities should be primarily aimed at young researchers and clinicians whose CV demonstrate an interest and motivation in both clinical and basic epileptology.
  • The educational program should include frontal lectures, tutorials, practical sessions, journal clubs and special lectures.
  • The students, divided in small groups with the assistance of tutors should be requested to prepare research projects on given topics that should be evaluated by the all group at the end of the course.

The first course “Bridging Basic with Clinical Epileptology” (Directors Giuliano Avanzini and Amel Mrabet) was held in 2002 with substantial support from the NATO SCIENCE PROGRAM. Thanks to the strong commitment of the outstanding faculty and the motivation of the trainees, the course was a great success thus prompting ISNV to recognize an Epilepsy Summer School under my responsibility as an important part of its educational activities. Care has been taken to promote an interactive relationship between the students and the teachers by organizing tutorials, practical sessions and journal clubs.  Particularly successful was the exercise of preparing a research project by six groups of students under supervision of tutors. The students have been allowed to freely access didactic material (histological samples of epileptic tissue; video-EEG material from animal models and humans; imaging supports; electrophysiology experiment simulations, etc.) under the supervision of the tutors. Each research project was collectively discussed and evaluated during the last two days. 

Faculty and students of the first Summer Course are nicely depicted in Figs. 2 and 3 where some of the members of the preparatory committee who participate in the course as teachers can be recognized.

Fig.2 – The tutors of the first Epilepsy Summer Course.
From left: Jerome Engel, Jr, Mike Gutnick, Peter Wolf,
Istvan Mody, Giuliano Avanzini, Uwe Heinemann and
Jeffery Noebels. Sitting on the grass: Solomon Moshé,
Fernando Lopez da Silva, Marco de Curtis and Roberto

 

Fig. 3 – Faculty and students of the first course

 

In 2003 the Epilepsy Summer School was given a permanent organization with Giuliano Avanzini as director and Metella Paterlini responsible for the secretariat. In 2006 a small committee was created to help the two Course Directors in the organization duties. The committee is composed of Giuliano Avanzini (as ISNV president and Summer School Director), Francesco Paladin (as ISNV director), Marco de Curtis (as co-founder of the Summer School), Michel Baulac  (as Chairman of the ILAE European Commission that is substantially supporting the School) and the two course directors (who change every year).

In order to create a permanent link with the ILAE activity it was decided that one of the two directors of every annual course would be the chair of the ILAE Commission relevant to the course focus. Moreover the courses were integrated in the accreditation system of EUREPA.

Here is the list of the six courses held since 2002 and the title of the course planned for 2008. 

1.   21 July-4 August 2002 — Bridging basic with clinical epileptology Directors: G Avanzini (Italy) and A Mrabet (Tunisia) — 34 students from 26 countries

2.   10-19 July 2003 — From basic knowledge to rational prescribing in epilepsy Directors: E Perucca (Italy) and T Tomson (Sweden) — 53 students from 48 countries

3.   11-22 July 2004 — Epilepsy in children: neurobiological, clinical  and therapeutic approach  Directors: R Guerrini (Italy) and Solomon Moshé (USA) — 47 students from 35 countries

4.   18-27 July 2005 — Bridging basic with clinical epileptology 2 Directors: Marco de Curtis (Italy) and Esper A. Cavalheiro (Brazil) — 50 students from 37 countries

5.   27 July-8 August 2006 — Surgically remediable epilepsies Directors: Gregor Wieser (Switzerland), Giorgio Lo Russo (Italy) — 65 students from 41 countries

6.   23 July-3 August 2007 — Clinical and therapeutic approaches to childhood epilepsy — Directors: Helen Cross (UK), Bernardo Dalla Bernardina (Italy) — 67 students from 39 countries Forthcoming

7.   27 July-8 August 2008 — Bridging basic with clinical epileptology 3 — Directors Uwe Heinemann (Germany), Marco de Curtis (Italy)

Thanks to the support of the organizations listed below it was possible to fully support the participation of the majority of the students and to cover the travel and accommodation expenses of the faculty.

  • 2002 NATO
  • 2006-2008: European Union (EU): Human Resources and Mobility Marie Curie Actions (“EPILEARN” project)
  • 2003-present: ILAE Commission whose chair is co-director of the course
  • 2006-present: ILAE Commission of European Affairs (CEA): special support for students from Eastern Europe

The original enthusiastic support of the pharmaceutical industry subsequently decreased and has been very limited in the two last years.

Overall, 315 students from 75 countries attended the courses, with 116 teachers from 29 countries.  The initial policy of keeping the student number within 35 was modified according to the experience of the first course demonstrating that an optimal interaction between teachers and students could also be obtained ­with a larger number of students. The largest student attendance was reached in the 6th course. The student attendance from 2002 to 2007 is displayed in Fig. 4, whereas the regional distribution is shown in Fig. 5.

The Eastern Mediterranean Region is not included because at the time of the first courses it was not yet established as an ILAE region. The students from Eastern Mediterranean countries are indicated either in Africa or in Asia. The most represented region in all courses was Europe followed by the Asia-Oceania. The regional distribution reflects in part the size of the epileptic community which is particularly developed in Europe where the largest part of ILAE Chapters is located but it is also (and even more) accounted for by the fact that most of the financial support came from European organizations. We are looking for alternative sources that would facilitate a more balanced international attendance, which will better correspond to the geographic distribution of the applications that we receive. In general we are intensively looking for other supports, since in 2008 the EU program EPILEARN, which presently covers the main part of the expenses will terminate.

In spite of these concerns I am confident that we will be able to continue the activity of the Epilepsy Summer School whose success is demonstrated by the number of applications that are currently more than double the accepted students. The success is due to the generous commitment of the course directors, teachers and tutors who shared their outstanding experience with the students and lived with them for the duration of the courses. Their enthusiastic contribution met a high degree of motivation of the students whose scientific and professional endowments made the interaction with the faculty particularly effective. I thank all of them for making my involvement in the Epilepsy Summer School so exciting. In particular I would like to thank my young friend Marco de Curtis who made outstanding contributions to the design and organization of the courses and Metella Paterlini  who is taking care of all the organization with high efficiency and charming courtesy.

Giuliano Avanzini
ISNV President

Info and contacts: Metella Paterlini e-mail: epilepsysummercourse@univiu.org, fax no: +39-02-7005211
Programs and organization details can be found on: www.univiu.org and www.ilaeepilepsy.org

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