Prof Zoka Milan
King’s College Hospital. London UK
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on our lives, and this holds true for the ESAIC and Trainee Exchange Programme (TEP) Committee activities as well.
Over the past 20 years, the TEP Committee has gone from strength to strength in terms of the following aspects:
- a gradual rise—5 to 16—in the number of fellows who were awarded, fellowships;
- an increase in the number and quality of host centres;
- clear guidelines for host centres, successful fellows and committee members;
- use of feedback from fellows and host centres to improve our practice;
- following up with people after their fellowship is over;
- cooperation with other committees, such as the Trainee Committee within the ESAIC and EACTA training programmes;
- introduction of fellowships for candidates from developing countries;
- constant adaptation of scoring systems to ensure we get the most suitable candidates for the fellowships
- providing insurance during fellowships and
- consideration of new options in terms of funding; candidates, host centres and how to bring the maximum benefit for fellows, host centres.
The first wave of COVID-19 in March forced several 2019 winners to postpone already planned and agreed upon fellowships. Some, who had already begun their fellowships, had to return home. We initially did not expect the pandemic to last for such a long period and unfortunately, some fellowships had to be postponed for the second time. On the positive side, three fellowships were executed in autumn this year, where the people self-quarantined for two weeks upon their arrival and/or return home. As rules vary by country in Europe and are also undergoing changes with the ever-evolving situation, we had to work hard to support our fellows, keeping in mind their health, security and desire to learn new skills.
The second wave is currently in full force in many European countries and we are still not certain when life will return to normal. European and national guidelines still restrict movement, making it difficult for host centres to accept foreign trainees. Seven of our current TEP winners had to postpone their 2020 exchange to 2021.
After careful consideration, the TEP Committee has decided to support the remaining seven candidates in pursuing their fellowship in 2021 and to not accept new candidates for 2021. We will continue to monitor the pandemic and we hope to open applications in summer 2021 for the exchanges to be carried out in 2022. All applications submitted in 2020 for 2021 will be accepted for the 2022 fellowship.
We know that 2021 will bring numerous challenges and changes that were unimaginable only a year ago and will be doing our best to support the candidates and our fellows. For example, we will consider different types, durations and quantities of the fellowships, the quality of our support and funding, etc.
Finally, at the beginning of next year, we plan to elect a new committee chair and one member. This way we will assure the continuity of the committee with the two remaining members and past chair while we acquire a new leader and a committee member.
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