Throughout this issue, you’ll read about the enormous variety of valuable ways to spend your time while you’re attending the 2023 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago. You can’t miss the Opening Session, where ASCO president Dr. Eric P. Winer will discuss his inspiring theme, and where the impressive list of guest speakers includes NCI director and ASCO past president Dr. Monica M. Bertagnolli. You have to go the Plenary Session, of course, where the most impactful and practice-changing discoveries will be presented. ASCO Voices is always extraordinarily personal and moving, so you can’t miss that either. You want to check out all the abstract presentations in your specialty track, and be in the audience to lend moral support when your friends, colleagues, mentors, and mentees are presenting. Then you want to go to a career development talk, and get some one-on-one mentoring advice, and you signed up for a ticketed session… You could easily fill every minute of your calendar.
You should definitely make time for these things, and you can read more about them in this month's cover story. But if I can give one piece of advice, it’s this: Leave some space for serendipity.
In 2020, when ASCO held its Annual Meeting fully online for the first time due to COVID-19, I thought a lot about what we miss in a virtual environment. The unscheduled moments of personal connection—the chance encounters that you can’t plan—are so important. I know this firsthand. I’ve waited by the podium to introduce myself to a speaker after their talk, or met someone face-to-face in the coffee line whom I had only known via email, or crossed paths in the hallway with an author whose paper I admired, and those encounters have led us to become professional friends and collaborators. I first met Dr. Jonathan Berek, also a gynecologic oncologist and the previous editor-in-chief of this magazine, at the 1998 ASCO Annual Meeting in the most unplanned way possible—as I was struggling to hang my first poster as a clinical trialist, he noticed that it was crooked and gallantly stopped to help.
ASCO routinely collects feedback on the meeting experience, and that feedback consistently shows that participants highly value the opportunity for informal networking, catching up with friends and colleagues, and face-to-face interactions. A new “Career Connections” space will be offered this year with comfortable seating for casual chats, tables for meetings, and talks and workshops on career development topics. You can find the details on this new space (and if you’re a dog person, a quick tip on where you can cuddle a therapy pup at McCormick Place) in this issue.
While some opportunities are only offered in person and onsite, the ASCO Annual Meeting will continue to have a really robust online presence. The shift to hybrid meetings is one positive thing to come out of the pandemic restrictions—it’s gratifying to know that new knowledge is accessible to our entire community at the same time, so we can put discoveries into action for patients everywhere as soon as possible.
Whether you participate in person in Chicago, watch sessions online, or keep up with the meeting outcomes and conversations on social media (or any combination of these), I hope the ASCO Annual Meeting leaves you feeling inspired and, above all, connected.
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