November 19th, 2013

Does It Matter that I Miss Another Late-Breaking (“Heart-Breaking”) Session at AHA?

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.

As I sit on the plane flying back to New York well aware that I am missing the rest of the AHA conference, I ask myself if I really am missing out.

Besides the fact that I came with a group of wonderful co-fellows who are now likely enjoying some delicious Texas barbecue without me, I’ll also be missing another late-breaking session and the highly anticipated Prevention guidelines session (did they really have to save that for the last day?).

Given that the majority of the late-breaking sessions were somewhat disappointing (is there anything that will ever work for HFPEF?) which seems to have been a trend for the past 2 conferences, it seems like the conference organizers should change the name from “late-breaking sessions” to “heart-breaking sessions.” I understand that results from negative trials can be just as important as ones from positive trials in advancing the practice of evidence-based medicine, but there is something to be said for the excitement of being in the presence of the first announcement of an exciting new discovery.

Attendance overall seemed more sparse this year compared to the previous year. I remember the first time I attended the AHA conference (the year before I started fellowship) — there were so many people in attendance that popular session rooms would often overflow into other rooms where you were relegated to watching the presentation on a TV with a headset. This year, most sessions I attended had an abundance of empty chairs.

So what will keep me coming in the future? I appreciate the feeling of camaraderie in a shared learning environment; the ability to find inspiration in exciting new ideas; and the opportunities of meeting people with shared interests and goals. This year the Go Red for Women networking lunch was a great opportunity to hear from women in all phases of their careers and to gain valuable advice; I wish I had discovered it earlier. As I transition from a fellow to the “real world,” I plan on continuing to attend these conferences for these very reasons.

I think that fellows initially have difficulty with navigating the overwhelming options for learning and networking at these conferences. Some comment on the feeling that they are always “missing out” on something – and then all of a sudden the conference is over. The FIT events the first day temper this somewhat, but if there were more of a structure to the “early career” pathway for the rest of the conference, perhaps younger fellows and those early in their careers would be more encouraged to participate and attend.

What do other fellows think about this? Do you have similar impressions of the usefulness and difficulties of these conferences?

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