November 15th, 2010

Networking at AHA

Several Cardiology Fellows who are attending this week’s AHA meeting are blogging together on CardioExchange. The Fellows include Susan Cheng, Madhavi Reddy, John Ryan, and Amit Shah. Check back often to learn about the biggest buzz in Chicago this week — whether it’s a poster, a presentation, or the word in the hallways. You can read the preceding post here.

Chicago may have failed to become host city for the Olympic games, but it is still largely regarded as one of the best conference cities in the U.S. When the cardiology world started to descend upon us on Friday and Saturday, I found myself driving out to O’Hare Airport several times to pick up friends and colleagues. “This is something that you should never offer to do,” one of my colleagues said. “Because there is nothing fun about driving to and from airports.” Although he was probably right, there was something nice about having one-on-one meetings with old friends and getting to talk about career plans and personal lives before going into the sessions with the however many thousands of card-carrying cardiologists in attendance.

AHA can be depressing at times because you arrive pretty upbeat, doing well in your program and having gotten some papers out — and then you see the leadership giving talks and presenting their research, and you feel like a nobody. I was mentioning this to a guy who I did residency with, and he corrected me. He said, “John, when I was a senior in college, I felt that the freshmen owned the campus more than we did, because they had four more years there and were the future of the college. Similarly, we are the college freshmen of AHA.” He was not alone in his thinking, as the Council for Clinical Cardiology sponsored over two hundred fellows to attend the scientific session this year and organized an early career program.

Everyone always mentions that the AHA is a great opportunity to network. That is true to a certain extent, but in the past I have found that a lot of the networking was with one’s peers. However, the session with the mentors that Madhavi talked about was very well organized and gave us all one-on-one time with many leaders in cardiology, including a session where we met in small groups and had lunch with folks such as Drs Elliott Antman, Roberto Bolli, and Clyde Yancy.

Last night, the clinical cardiology council arranged a dinner that again was well organized and more fun than I anticipated. Again there were hundreds of fellows at the dinner, many of whom I had met before either in training in Boston or at prior meetings. The good thing about these meetings is that you can pretend to remember everyone’s name by subtly looking at the oversized name tags hanging around his or her neck (“Great to see you again…Robert”).

At the end of the dinner and the subsequent socializing, I offered, as a representative of the host city, to drive a few colleagues to their hotels. Now, I rarely go to downtown Chicago, and when I am downtown, I use Lake Michigan as my compass (“am I going towards the lake or away from the lake?”; “should I keep the lake on my right or on my left?”). Being downtown at night becomes somewhat more of a challenge because I cannot see the lake. But after a few wrong turns, I successfully dropped off a council chair, two co-fellows and a faculty member from Europe at their hotels. The AHA had successfully brought three generations of cardiologists together into my Toyota Forerunner, and that is the unique and uplifting aspect of this meeting.

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