CODA. The FAQs. St Emlyn’s

We are very excited to be supporting the first CODA conference​1​ in Melbourne next year. The conference will run from 28th September 2020 to 2nd October 2020 and will comprise a familiar mix of workshops and conference sessions.

There is clearly a lot of interest in CODA​1​, but also a little confusion about what it is exactly and how it relates to the SMACC conferences from which it was born. I think it’s time to address some of the questions here based on information gleaned from the Roger and Oli, and the rest of the exec (Ed – note that Simon is a member of the exec). The comments on this blog are based on my interpretation and may not precisely align with the Australian perspective as we are writing this with a view from Virchester.

To some extent I think SMACC​1,2​ had achieved its aims. Love it or loathe it (and there are plenty of detractors out there) it had changed the way that many conferences function. The engagement, scope, topics and presentation styles were all designed to bring excellence to a multi-professional and multi-disciplinary team. I still see it as a huge success, delivering real change in how we think about conferences and for influencing our behaviours and ultimately patient care. That sometimes meant taking risks, and not all of them worked out (remember #SMACCfinale anyone), but you cannot innovate without pushing the boundaries, and the vast majority of those risks turned into game-changers for medical education.

Many of us were sorry to see SMACC​2​ end, but it’s not really gone completely following the announcement of the CODA​1​ conference next year which is run by the same core team, but with a more open and structured support structure.

You may remember the opening video for CODA which sets out the main aims of the conference.

The video was great, but did not really dig into the reasons why CODA is different to SMACC​2​. Is it an entirely different beast, or is it really just an evolution. My view is that it is certainly an evolution. The aim is to take the network and community of SMACC​2​ forward together with new partner organisations and individuals to tackle bigger and more challenging aspects of healthcare around the world. It’s really important to me and the wider CODA team that we don’t lose that SMACC community and make it clear that if you enjoyed SMACC content then this conference will also be for you.

However. It’s not just SMACC 2.0. In the same way that SMACC blurred the boundaries between the critical care tribes, CODA aims to blur the tribal boundaries even further into all clinical and research tribes. We should see this through the development of workshops in specialities that were previously unrepresented such as surgery and oncology (there are more to come too), yet still maintaining the links into the main conference program. SMACC also relied on a bit an ‘old favourites’ vibe where the same speakers appeared each year (I know, I was one of them), but CODA is casting the net much wider and higher so this will not be the same old faces, but new speakers at the top of the game from within and without clinical medicine. I know what’s coming and I’m really excited to see the calibre and quality that will be there. I can’t say much more now, but keep your eyes on the website for updates.

Each year CODA will address a global challenge in health care. Year one addresses the impact of climate change on health, but this is NOT a climate change conference. Climate change is the theme in year one, but climate change will still be a relatively small component of the conference (about 25% of the main conference sessions I think), the rest of the conference and the pre-conference workshops (which have been enhanced for 2020) will be more familiar to old and new participants.

I’m sure you still have questions and that’s fine, so here are some FAQs put together by the conference conveners – Roger Harris and Oli Flower. If you have more questions then post them here or via twitter to find out more.

1: Why did SMACC finish?

SMACC was started to innovate the medical conference space and to engage and inspire delegates. That mission was largely achieved in Dublin and Berlin and so a new direction was needed to continue to grow and engage our community.

2: What is the new direction that Coda is taking?

The number one mission for Coda is to continue to engage and connect our medical community. Using many of the lessons learned from SMACC, Coda will deliver the same inspiring event designed to bring us closer together but with a difference. Coda will go further, utilising the natural energy of our connected community to power actions to mitigate against threats to global health.

3: What can I expect from Coda?

The Coda event will unlike any conference experience you have had before. The plenary program will comprise 3 days of the most exciting speakers interacting with us all on topics of vital importance to healthcare. These topics are contained across four domains which are Medicine (Coda-Cure), Ethics (Coda-Ethics), Environment and Health (Coda-Planet) and Medical Communication / Education (Coda-Educate). No matter what discipline or professional section of medicine you belong to, you are guaranteed to be fascinated, inspired and revitalised by the Coda program.

Additionally the two days of workshops and pre-conference mini-congresses will satisfy every interest and professional need, from hands-on ultrasound workshops to radiology master classes, or from the creative and communication workshops to craft group specific scientific updates.

Of course the entire pre-conference and plenary programs will be CPD accredited.

4: Why should I be interested?

Coda will be like no other conference so you can’t afford to miss it. The combination of 50 pre-conference workshops tailored to meet the diverse needs of all specialties and disciplines within healthcare coupled with a plenary program guaranteed to engage your thoughts, emotions and your humanity as a healthcare provider – will make Coda a career lifetime experience! Add to that the connections you will make giving way to the sense of belonging you will feel and you’ll realise that you can’t miss this event.

Finally attending Coda and joining the community will unite you in action with all of healthcare to mitigate against the most urgent threats to health.

5: The action agenda for Coda in Melbourne is focusing on the Climate Emergency – is this the only focus or are there other topics?

The Climate Emergency will only occupy 25% of the plenary program (or one session per/day). The other 75% of the program will focus on medicine/education/ethics. We know that the bulk of the Coda community are passionate about planetary well-being, but we also know that their interests are more diverse and that to really engage our community we need to provide a program that will resonate with everyone in healthcare.

6: How sustainable will the Coda event in Melbourne be – particularly given the need for air-travel?

Coda is acutely aware of the need to champion reduced carbon emission and the potential irony of doing this through an international meeting, itself generating carbon emissions at many levels including catering, venue, exhibition and delegate travel. To this end Coda is working on making the event as sustainable as possible including locally sourced plant rich menus, recyclable exhibition, venue selections based on sustainability and the event itself taking responsibility for off-setting travel emissions (additional to encouraging delegates to do the same).

7: Why did Coda choose to collaborate with a large traditional journal like NEJM.

For the exact reason that the journal is large and traditional, reaching a medical audience that Coda and FOAMed are unlikely to connect with otherwise. There is no financial association involved with the collaboration but rather an academic collaboration to produce and disseminate the Coda Actions for discussion prior to their release at the Melbourne event.

The St Emlyn’s view.

The FAQs are helpful and will hopefully answer some of the questions we’ve been asked. CODA is a new chapter in the field of international conferences that has the potential to build on the successes of the SMACC community/conferences through collaboration and exploration of international clinical priorities.

We will be there, speaking, participating and learning. We hope you can join us in Melbourne next year.



  1. 1.
    Flower O, Harris R. CODA. CODA change. Published 2019. Accessed 2019.
  2. 2.
    Carley S. SMACC content. St Emlyn’s. Published 2019. Accessed 2019.

Cite this article as: Simon Carley, "CODA. The FAQs. St Emlyn’s," in St.Emlyn's, November 27, 2019,

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  1. Pingback: November 2019 podcast round up. St Emlyn's • St Emlyn's

Thanks so much for following. Viva la #FOAMed

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