Empowering Doctors at The 8th International Vein Congress

by A.M. Sutton

Jose I. Almeida, M.D., has a way of cutting through the noise and getting down to business. The meeting he founded and directs, the International Vein Congress (IVC), just celebrated its eighth year, and the annual gathering just keeps getting bigger and better. Telling it like it is makes him the guy people want to hear from and, boy, are the in-office venous practitioners ever eager to come listen. More than 600 attendees from 21 countries and more than 200 exhibitor representatives made it to Miami Beach in May to get the latest findings and the general lowdown during information-packed sessions, as well as in a sold-out exhibit hall.

“I want to empower doctors,” Dr. Almeida says. “This is about running your practice so that you give patients what they want and still have time left to hang out with your kids, hit the golf course and enjoy life. This isn’t rocket science,” he continues. “You can do your job as well as humanly possible and then close shop for the day and not worry about emergencies or late-night calls. Anyone who has decided to devote themselves to in-office venous procedures knows this, and IVC aims to enhance their chosen profession. ”Welcoming both folks new to the idea of venous work, as well as those already established in the arena, IVC 2010 combined lectures from experts, on-site live demos and live cases transmitted from Dr. Almeida’s office to the ballroom of the swanky Fontainbleau Miami Beach.

Optional a la carte sessions covered in greater depth topics such as duplex ultrasound venous mapping, facial cosmetic procedures appropriate for adding to a venous practice and sclerotherapy. A session dedicated to the professional duties of office managers, offered for the first time, addressed the needs of yet another member of the physician’s extended team. (Nurses and technologists have attended the course for a number of years.)

Live cases, in particular, captivated the crowd. Presented on two screens, with the larger measuring 12-by-16 feet, each case featured either Dr. Almeida or Co-director Edward Mackay, M.D., talking directly to the audience while performing procedures such as endovenous ablation and phlebectomy. Drs. Almeida and Mackay provided patient background information and then walked the audience through each procedure, step by step, while giving insight and tips. The same ultrasound images that guided the operators were shown on the big screen for benefit of the audience.

A group of expert panelists seated at the front of the hotel ballroom, where attendees watched in comfort, carried on a dialogue with the operator by asking questions and adding information related to each procedure. The ongoing conversation highlighted devices and approaches and even led to discussion of how to deal with potential complications. The result: an ideal opportunity for attendees to learn from some of the country’s most experienced venous practitioners. “I think we gave everybody there as good a view as the one they would have had standing in the suite itself,” Dr. Almeida Medical DiaryEmpowering Doctors at The 8th International Vein Congress says. “This is dynamic stuff, especially when you have people like Ron Bush and Lowell Kabnick commenting on your case and even sharing how they might do it better!” Dr. Almeida says of his esteemed colleagues and co-directors. “The interaction between the operator and the panel adds an important aspect to the visual. Frankly, it’s gripping. No one can look away.”Attendee Ray Kenoyer, M.D., of Black Forest, Colo., agrees. “The satellite cases were of great value,” he says. “One view is better than a thousand words.”And Dr. Almeida is not beyond stirring up debate to keep things both interesting and educational at IVC. During a live case, for example, he encouraged direct comparison between specific RF and laser devices made by competing companies.

Closing the meeting, a session devoted to issues surrounding healthcare reform encouraged attendees to collectively speak up on controversial matters such as reimbursement and patient access to care. Congressman Bill Cassidy, a medical doctor specializing in the treatment of liver cancer, spoke on the subject of physician activism. Recognizing that doctors have relinquished their voice by relying too heavily upon the AMA and specialty societies to hold the ground with legislators, Dr. Cassidy called upon those in attendance to have an impact by building their own relationships with representatives and creating their own networks to lobby officeholders.

The call to action was meant to serve as a wake-up call of sorts, Dr. Almeida says. “Why not make people think a little and question themselves about what we do as doctors and how we do it,” he asks. “Government would love to run every detail of our practices, but we need to take a stand and, in the end, take back what belongs to us. Enough of letting others determine our future.”Attendee Steven L. Kaufman, M.D., Ph.D, of Fort Collins, Colo., seconds that sentiment. “Bill’s talk was inspiring. His message is very important. We need to be more involved. Most of the physicians active in the health care reform seem to be in primary care. What’s best for them may not be best for surgical specialists. We definitely have to be there to have our voice heard.”The learning at IVC did not end with the program, however, as attendees gladly took a turn through the exhibit hall, where well-known companies and smaller ones alike stood side-by-side in an atmosphere best described as electric.

In the end, IVC 2010 brought together an entire community built around the vital and growing field of venous therapy in hopes of advancing physician practices, as well as the quality of services doctors offer their patients. “Let’s make everybody happy,” Dr. Almeida says. “IVC aims to give attendees everything they need to build and grow a successful business. I hope we can continue to do the same for years to come, and I appreciate the support of everyone who over the years has helped make IVC the venous meeting of choice.”