By Samer Al Hadidi, MD, MS, FACP
Oncology conferences may fulfill many goals, including career advancement, education and sharing progress and new developments in the field. They also provide an opportunity to network and collaborate with colleagues and/or mentors. While the benefits of conferences are obvious and may differ according to the training and/or experience level, the growing number of available oncology conferences may be overwhelming. A clear strategy may help to choose the best conference/s to attend according to interest and/or availability.
1. Major annual meetings are important and fun to be a part of
It is important to take note of the dates of major conferences, such as the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting and the American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting. While the ASCO Annual Meeting covers all types of cancers, ASH Annual Meeting only covers hematological malignancies, along with classic hematological disorders. Major meetings can provide access to multiple educational sessions, which may be more attractive for trainees and/or early career faculty. There are plenty of networking opportunities during such meetings, including situational mentoring and individual meetings. Presenting at major meetings is usually more competitive compared to smaller meetings, however many trainees and/or early career faculty can present each year.
2. Focused meetings are available and can be considered according to interest
Specialized and focused meetings are offered by ASCO, ASH and other societies. Some examples include quality care, gastrointestinal cancers and genitourinary cancers, which are offered by ASCO. Opportunities to present in those conferences are available and they are usually less competitive when compared to the major annual meetings. Such conferences can be helpful for trainees and/or early career faculty who are determined to a specific track in oncology, however, they may be less helpful for trainees in their earlier part of training.
3. Attending all available oncology conferences is not possible
There are too many oncology conferences, which can be local or international. Protected conference time is extremely variable and may depend on training level and/or institution. Attending all oncology conferences is not possible nor needed. Planning is helpful to determine which conference/s to attend and secure a protected time. Attending and presenting at the same conference can be a successful strategy to get the most out of your time at the meeting, however this will require further knowledge of deadlines and will require sufficient planning and preparation.
4. Try to avoid repetition
Given the high number of oncology conferences, repetition will become inevitable. Many educational sessions and presentations offered at various meetings provide similar content and may not be the best use of your limited conference time.
5. Get the best of the conference/s you decide to attend by early planning
Conference schedules can be overwhelming and may include multiple sessions that are running at the same time. Some sessions may be available at different times. Early preparation can allow you to choose your preferred sessions, while using your time in the best way.
6. While in a conference, try to engage and read more
Almost all presentations allow for interactive questions and discussions. It is helpful to engage with the speaker/s and ask questions. Engagement can be done after the presentation or the meeting. Presentations can serve as a stimulus to read more, dissect the presented work and provide you with future ideas for research and academic activities.
The number of oncology conferences is increasing while the potential allocated time for attending such conferences is lagging. It is important to plan to attend a few meetings ahead of time according to your schedule. It is not feasible to attend all available oncology meetings, especially while in training. Conferences can serve as a stimulator to read more and learn more and should always be a source of networking.
Dr. Al Hadidi is an assistant professor in the Section of Myeloma at the Department of Hematology and Oncology at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and a member of the ASCO Trainee and Early Career Advisory Group. His research interests include areas related to plasma cell dyscrasias, with a focus on drug development, health equity and medical education. Follow Dr. Al Hadidi on Twitter @HadidiSamer. Disclosure.