The compound word telecommunication is derived from the Greek prefix tele- (τηλε-)meaning 'far off', and the Latin communicare, meaning 'to share'. In earlier times, this may have involved the use of smoke signals, drums, the use of hand held flags, or by heliographic use of reflected sunlight. In modern times, telecommunication has seen the chronologic evolution of emerging electronic devices such as the telephone, radio, television, or computer. Today, nowhere is this definition of telecommunication better exemplified than in the Conferences On Line Allergy (COLA) Initiative, a collaborative venture between the ACAAI and The Children's Mercy Hospitals & Clinics (CMH&C), Section of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, in Kansas City. The brainchild of Dr Jay Portnoy and his colleagues, COLA has come to represent one of the most innovative and exciting telecommunication programs in continuing medical education that the ACAAI has been privileged to conduct. The purpose of COLA is to provide access to allergy-related educational experiences for the practicing and academic allergist-immunologist as well as for primary care providers, students of medicine and the general public.
From Washington DC, my fellows and staff at the Immunology Center regularly orbit Kansas City with other planetary satellite participants in other cities throughout the US and, in the future, throughout the world. The COLA conferences provide a unique opportunity to not only engage in cutting edge presentations and discussions in allergy-immunology but also a forum where the opportunity for bidirectional educational interaction is freely available. The availability of CME accreditation for participation and the archiving of these presentations for future review offer yet additional opportunities. As travel and economics continue to confine attendance at national meetings, not only will these online conferences continue to have increased value but will also offer limitless opportunities to keep current with recent advances in allergy-immunology.
Although it is not possible to predict the future, of this I am certain. I feel confident that this neophyte program has not only initiated a paradigm shift in continuing medical education for the present but also through its translational value for patients whom we serve, will reap a harvest of improved health and improved patient care far beyond our present dreams and expectations.
Joseph A. Bellanti, MD, FACAAI
Past-President ACAAI (1991-1992)