The Summer School of Myology is changing, becoming AcadeMYO – Interview with Norma B. Romero and J. Andoni Urtizberea

The Institute’s Summer School of Myology becomes AcadeMYO this year. Entirely virtual, it will take place from July 5th to 9th, in partnership with the European Reference Network EURO-NMD. The new digital format includes a significant portion of pre-available video courses (approximately 40 recorded lessons) and further  lessons and interactive workshops broadcast live. During interactive workshops, the participants will be split into small groups to promote discussion.  Interview with Norma B. Romero and J. Andoni Urtizberea, the AcadeMYO leaders.

Was it the pandemic that led you to change the format of the Summer School of Myology? 

JAU – If we take things in chronological order, we were already thinking, long before the pandemic, of an evolution of the format of our summer school. We were receiving a growing number of applications and we could only accommodate a limited number of those. Two or three years ago, we had already thought about having a 2nd session in the fall, in a slightly different format. Then the pandemic arrived, leading us unfortunately to cancel the 2020 session.

NBR – 2020 has been a difficult year, we didn’t know how long all this was going to last. When we decided to hold the course in 2021, we wanted a format adapted to the new situation. Digital was therefore the most appropriate solution.

JAU – So, both structural and temporary reasons have made us move towards a virtual edition this year. The name change to AcadeMYO illustrates this new concept technically and educationally speaking.


Has the switch to a virtual formula opened up new possibilities for you? 

JAU – Yes, indeed. We can now accept more students: 85 students are already registered to date, we have set ourselves an objective of 100 participants (vs. a maximum capacity of 66 in the previous face-to-face editions). Among them, there is a large majority of academics (health professionals, researchers, physiotherapists) but also people from industry.

NBR – I think it is very important to facilitate meetings between industry employees and academics, we have to exchange thoughts and   enrich each other. In addition, this virtual edition of the summer school makes it possible to welcome alumni to refresh their knowledge in myology. AcadeMYO fits therefore quite well in the continuity of former the summer school.

JAU – Another advantage of this digital version: the applicants have no longer to bduget travel or accommodation expenses. Some administrative procedures are simplified (less hassle related to visa applications for example). We are also taking advantage of this change to think about the prospects of our summer school in the years to come. Additionally, this digital school, is an innovation that allows us to invite, for example, new speakers who could not make it in the previous editions. It also allows students to access the courses earlier, for several weeks ahead, and therefore assimilate more quietly the educational content that they previously had to digest during six to eight-hour days!

Note however that this first virtual, experimental edition is subject to some uncertainties. We will undoubtedly lose in interactivity although we have planned several moments of Q&A during the live sessions, and also in conviviality both for the students as for the teachers: no more gala dinner, nor informal discussions around a coffee which made that we knew the participants individually, and no more public for the 40 pre-recorded lessons. No more visits to Paris either and especially to La Pitié-Salpêtrière, an emblematic place for neurology and myology.

NBR – The face-to-face format was also an opportunity to establish interactions among the students whatever their training (post-doctorates, residents and thesis). Although we are not going to stop having students, it will still be different from when we were discussing face to face with them, live. But it is a reality that applies to most conferences nowadays.

JAU – Another downside of the new formula is that the live broadcast will effectively exclude certain geographical areas, mainly Asia and Oceania (due to the time difference), a source of frustration for everyone. Finally, even if we scheduled a lot of pre-recorded and live lessons, this represents less hours of teaching overall than before: 36h in virtual vs. 45h over 6 days during the last face-to-face sessions.


What developments do you foresee for the coming years? 

JAU – We do not yet know what we will do in the future, but it is certain that there is a need and a desire to return to a minimum of face-to-face, perhaps with a very familial formula, much like the earlier sessions, 30 or 40 people who come to Paris to spend the week with educational sequences that we will have to make even more appealing.

NBR – We had imagined even before the pandemic to organize 2 extra-days of practical workshops in addition to the week of theoretical sessions for small groups of 10 people. The idea is not that the students “manipulate” samples but that they come to Paris to attend and participate in what is happening in the molecular biology laboratory (extracting DNA, creating a probe, etc.), consultation (see the doctor setting a respirator …), in the pathtology lab (biopsy sampling, freezing, sectioning, observation under a microscope and analysis under an electronic microscope …), in the imaging lab, so that they could be witnesses of very concrete situations.

There is a demand from the students themselves for practical things that they can put in place right away when they return home, in addition to the theoretical knowledge.

JAU – This is indeed an option: going back to a face-to-face format in June-July next year, with fewer sessions because most would be available online but still with gatherings to discuss clinical cases, and of course very practical, hands-on workshops. We could also consider a second virtual session later in the year with similar or different contents, or connect the courses and workshops to e-learning modules. The AcadeMYO platform now in place might serve for other educational activities of the Institute of Myology like basic science or other fields. … There are many potential future developments beyond this first virtual edition of the Summer School of Myology!