Medical University - Varna hosted a special meeting of the European Board of Ophthalmology (EBO), held on 22nd and 23rd February. The city of Varna had the high honour of gathering together the elite of the European Ophthalmology thanks to the Chair of the EBO - Prof. Dr. Hristina Grupcheva, Vice Rector at MU-Varna, who in 2017 was elected the future Chair of the Board. Traditionally, the inauguration of the Chairperson takes place at a special Board meeting, held in the Chairperson's country. Specialists from Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, France, Germany and Slovenia attended the meetings. Important decisions, such as the collaboration between EBO and the European Society of Ophthalmology and the standardization of the practical part of the exam, were made at the meeting. The experts also decided the European Board of Ophthalmology exam to be held twice a year - in Paris and Berlin starting from 2020.
For the first time in its relatively short history, the chairmanship has been taken over by a representative of Eastern Europe and in particular - Bulgaria. Prof. Dr. Hristina Grupcheva, DSc, FEBO, FICO, FBCLA, FIACL, had received a special permission to sit for the European Board of Ophthalmology exam in 2002 and defended her knowledge with excellent performance. After Bulgaria's accession to the EU, she was invited to be the first Bulgarian examiner and was nominated for a National Representative. In 2013 she became a member of the Executive Board and worked as Chair of the Education Committee for four years. After the end of the term of office, she was unanimously elected the future Chair of the EBO in 2017.
Prof. Grupcheva, for the first time a Bulgarian has taken the helm of the EBO. What is your comment on that high honour?
This is a great honour and an incredible responsibility. When I was sitting for the exam, there were 50 candidates; today we have a limit of 700. Since setting limitations on the candidate number is unacceptable, a major change is to be made during my term of office. So far the exam has been held once a year - in May, in Paris. From 2020 there will be a second chance for everyone - in September, in Berlin. The underlying idea is to provide optimal conditions for young ophthalmologists in Europe to prove their knowledge and to practise with dignity.
What are the benefits of taking the exam?
This is a Specialist Practice Certificate at a European level. Different countries apply a different policy. In Switzerland this is a specialty exam, in France - practically, this exam becomes mandatory since there is no any other exam. In Germany - it is just a matter of prestige. Actually, this is the largest group.
And - in Bulgaria?
Thirty-eight Bulgarians have deserved the prestigious FEBO title so far. For some of them, this has been a part of their ticket to Europe, but fortunately 60% have remained in Bulgaria, and the ones I have observed have demonstrated a great development. I am very happy that three of my assistant professors and two of my PhD students have passed the exam successfully over the years. One of them is already an Associate Professor. Every year the interest of young specialists in Bulgaria has been growing, and I do believe that they will pass the exam with honours.
The European Board of Ophthalmology is a well-established institution as a section of the European Union of Medical Specialists (UEMS), dealing with training and preparation of specialists, their certification (through an examination), and their preparation in different fields. Historically, the organization was established in 1992 and has grown considerably for 27 years. In addition to education related activities, EBO accredits training courses, audits training centres, works on the exchange of postgraduates through granting scholarships, works with the rest of the European organizations, works on building super-specialized training systems.