By Tracy Balboni, MD, MPH
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
In my experience, presenting an abstract as a poster or reviewing posters at a national meeting has sometimes felt like an opportunity lost. Often, as the abstract presenter, only a few people will come by, and of course, only while I’m able to be present at the poster. In those situations, the work that has been poured into that poster can feel a bit anticlimactic, as hopes for interaction, discussion, and feedback are not fully realized.
Similarly, as someone reviewing posters, the presenter may not be at their poster when I’m able to review it. And even when the presenter is present, conversation is limited to the feedback or questions I bring to that discussion. Certainly those can be rewarding interactions, but the richness of group conversation surrounding the data presentation is not necessarily reached.
But recognition of an opportunity lost means there is an opportunity to be discovered! That is the goal of the Poster Walk at the 2015 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium: to promote group interaction surrounding poster presentations that deepens the conversation regarding the research, both for poster presenters and poster reviewers joining the walk.
I believe this goal was accomplished in the Poster Walk’s inaugural year. I led a diverse group of poster reviewers through the displayed posters. We had a medical student, a palliative care physician from Singapore, a radiation oncologist practicing in the Veterans Association, and a nurse providing palliative care in a community setting, among other participants.
We walked together and reviewed posters of interest to our group. At each poster, the poster presenter provided a short presentation about their research, and then the conversation began! These were rich discussions with the presenter about their work and with one another, spanning everything from the study purpose to conclusions. Hence, we learned both from the presenter’s information and from one another’s questions and thoughts. I would imagine that for the poster presenters who shared their work with us, the experience was as rewarding for them as it was for us.
Not only did we achieve the goal of deepening conversation around research, we also had the opportunity to get to know one another as we walked from poster to poster and engaged the studies together.
I look forward to continuing to refine and realize the opportunity offered by Poster Walks to enrich the conversation and community surrounding palliative oncology research. I hope you’ll experience a Poster Walk—whether as a presenter or as a part of the reviewing group—at next year’s symposium in San Francisco!
Dr. Balboni currently serves as an Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at Harvard Medical School, and acts as Director of the Supportive and Palliative Radiation Oncology Service at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, a service dedicated to the palliative oncology care needs of patients with advanced cancer. Dr. Balboni’s primary research interests are located at the intersection of oncology, palliative care, and the role of religion and spirituality in the experience of life-threatening illness. Her work also includes forging improved dialogue between academic theology, spiritual communities, and the field of medicine.