When Dr. Howard Rowley stepped up to the podium at a neuroradiology refresher course, he had no idea he was about to give a talk completely extemporaneously to over 500 people. He had not prepared to give a lecture on central nervous system (CNS) infections, but when the original presenter didn’t show up, he talked through a slideshow he had never seen before—and received an almost perfect score from evaluators.
Dr. Rowley is RSNA’s neuroradiology refresher course track head, which means he is responsible for coordinating over 25 educational lectures as part of RSNA each year. All seemed to be going according to plan when UW’s Dr. Patrick Turski opened the session on non-traumatic CNS emergencies. Although he wasn’t on the program, as the course organizer, Dr. Rowley decided to introduce each subsequent speaker as a professional courtesy. There was just one problem—although there were three slide shows loaded, there were only two lecturers present.
What Dr. Rowley had no way of knowing then was that the missing presenter, Dr. Turgut Tali, had suddenly become severely ill with gastroenteritis and was confined to his hotel room. Dr. Tali fully recovered, but in a split-second decision, Dr. Rowley took the stage and gave Dr. Tali’s presentation without having previously seen the slides.
“I warned them it was kind of like the movie Airplane, where a passenger reluctantly comes forward to the cockpit and tries to land the plane – with potentially hilarious results,” Dr. Rowley joked. He has previously spoken in general on the topic of CNS infections, so he let his knowledge guide the presentation. “I had no idea what slides were about to come up, so it made it a bit challenging and fun,” Dr. Rowley said, “I had to roll with it.”
The audience did not think that Dr. Rowley’s off-the-cuff presentation was anything other than highly engaging and professional. Four-hundred and seventy three participants scored Dr. Rowley with a 4.43 out of a possible 5 on both delivery and content of the presentation. Comments submitted about the presentation were also rave reviews.
“Exceptional performance by [Dr. Rowley] stepping in to cover Dr. Tali,” said one evaluator. “Amazing on the fly performance using someone else’s slides!” another wrote. Fellow UW Radiologist Dr. Turski described it in just one word: “Unbelievable.”
“Luckily at the time I didn’t even realize it was being broadcast live as part of the Virtual Meeting – that might have made me a little nervous,” Dr. Rowley said. “I didn’t have time to either prepare or get nervous … thankfully [the presentation] worked out fine in the end.”