November 19th, 2013

AHA 2013: Reflections on My Wish List

Several Cardiology Fellows who are attending AHA.13 in Dallas this week are blogging for CardioExchange. The Fellows include Vimal RamjeeSiqin YeSeth MartinReva Balakrishnan, and  Saurav Chatterjee. You can find the previous post here. For more of our AHA.13 coverage of late-breaking clinical trials, interviews with the authors of the most important research, and blogs from our fellows on the most interesting presentations at the meeting, check out our AHA.13 Headquarters.

At the airport, waiting for my flight back home. Like Reva, I reflect on what my time at AHA has meant to me and the prospects for future AHA meetings. At previous scientific meetings, I usually have only visited poster sessions, presented my poster, perhaps met with a few mentors or colleagues, and then headed back to my home program. There was never enough time to sit in on lectures, and I usually had to make a 1-day trip for my poster session. But what I have experienced these past 4 days – more time than I’ve ever had before – has been dramatically different in a positive way. I was able to sit in on dozens of lectures spanning from basic stem cell biology to the use of therapeutic hypothermia post-arrest.

While I enjoyed many aspects of the meeting, I have to agree with Reva that the attendance generally seemed less robust than prior meetings. It’s unclear to me why this is the case – it could be the time of year (senior residents just finished interviewing for fellowships around the country, likely leaving no time for this meeting, or funds, for that matter) or more expensive plane tickets and more conservative programmatic support (for expenses).

As for what I would absolutely love to see, the new things that would compel me to book my ticket to a given academic meeting include:

  • Livelier expert panel discussions. After witnessing dozens of experts blaze through their findings in 15-minute clips, I wanted to hear more. Not just about their objective findings, but what they think about the field and where it is heading. Do they agree or disagree with their colleagues? What needs to be done next? Perhaps, the AHA could organize mini-panel debates in which an expert moderator asks controversial questions of a panel of 3-5 expert investigators. This would open the floor to lively, interactive discussions, a dynamic academic exchange, and a much more engaging experience than the series of 15-minute didactics for hours on end. Interesting things could be done to build on this model – perhaps FITs could be invited to comment or ask questions relevant to trainees.
  • Better placement of poster sessions. I don’t understand why these are put into their own forum. Posters are the bulk of science at meetings but receive the least attention. A great and integrative approach would be to put small clusters of posters outside the mini-debate rooms (or the lectures, as they are now) to match the topic of discussion. This way, as people leave or enter the rooms, or mingle outside them, the posters create an environment for further discussions and scientific growth. This setup would also allow trainees to directly engage with the experts, something that does not happen often enough at these meetings.
  • Pre-assigned mentorships. Fellows (including myself) often mention how amazing it is to walk the same halls with faculty whose work they find fascinating. A much stronger initiative that could help bolster trainee attendance would be to match trainees with experts. Perhaps when trainees register, they can select their clinical and research areas of interest. Matching these data to a meeting with 1-2 experts in that area per day would help trainees with their careers and  incentivize them to stay at the meeting longer.

These considerations aside – I did have a great time at the AHA meeting and look forward to next year in Chicago.

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