Looking back, we can all agree that the past year – the year of COVID-19 – has been unprecedented. The impact of COVID-19 on the careers and lives of young professionals in the field of preventive cardiology has been just as unprecedented.
Where young professionals, at the very beginning of their careers, could previously attend meetings and congresses all across Europe, expand their networks through physical interaction, initiate collaborations with like-minded professionals and learn directly from and be inspired by some of the finest and most experienced clinicians and researchers in the world, they now saw themselves shifting to almost exclusively digital contacts, or putting their cardiovascular careers completely on hold to assist their colleagues at the COVID-19 units or intensive cares. We have yet to see what the results of the COVID-19 crisis will be on the careers of the youngest members of our association, many of whom have not even been able to physically attend their clinics or places of work for months at a time.
The new core group of the EAPC Young Community believes that the current situation warrants carefully listening to the youngest members of our association, both to chart what the young professionals need to proceed with their careers in preventive cardiology, but also to facilitate continued participation in the activities of both the EAPC and the ESC. We will therefore shortly be launching a survey to let the young professionals provide direct input, and inform us all about the challenges as well as the opportunities that face them.
The COVID-19 crisis has also led to innovation, both in education, clinical care and research. Completely digital or hybrid educational opportunities, such as the 6th EAPC Sports Cardiology Course in Amsterdam, is an example of an event that managed to reach an even larger audience through innovative digital strategies. Likewise, ESC Preventive Cardiology 2021 is an interactive, digital event, pioneering several new modalities and opportunities for interaction, and includes dedicated tracks for young professionals. The Young Community core group is looking forward to seeing an active and present Young Community from April 15 to 17 this year.
Yet, looking forward, the crisis has provided unique opportunities for young professionals. Initiatives in digital health, a field many young professionals have a strong affinity with, has seen a tremendous boost, with young professionals assuming central roles in various projects (for example: "How to initiate eHealth in congenital heart disease patients?" (EHJ Nov 2020). And the challenge of guiding the patient or athlete back to sports after COVID-19, one of the cornerstones of preventive cardiology, gives young and dynamic research groups the unprecedented opportunity to answer questions about pericardial and myocardial complications after infection with SARS-CoV-2. At my medical center, the Amsterdam UMC Heart Center, the members of the Young Community have embraced these opportunities wholeheartedly.
Therefore, as Lead of the core group of the EAPC Young Community, I look to 2021 with some trepidation, but also with keen enthusiasm, both with regard to the challenges but also the opportunities that this year will bring. The EAPC Young Community is a growing force, a force that only grows stronger through adversity, and which will continue to contribute to the field of Preventive Cardiology.