The excuses not to attend the Annual Meeting are easy to come up with. It is time away from practice and productivity. It certainly cannot be described as cheap, between travel costs, hotel, etc. The abstracts are available online, etc., etc., etc.
So, why do I bother with the Annual Meeting pretty much every year? Putting aside the activities I am involved with for ASCO, there are still a multitude of reasons I attend.
- There are the abstracts and then there is what people ask and say about the abstracts. The information that can be put on a poster or in a 10 to 15 minute presentation far exceeds what will fit in the relatively small space and word count requirements for abstract submission. In addition, the questions that arise during the poster/presentation time, as well as the time after, as people digest and discuss further, often put a much finer point on the entire topic. For the last couple of years, ASCO has made an effort to have some real-time moderation of presentations and posters via social media using “Featured Voices.” These are identified twitter users who will be actively live-tweeting the meeting. You can follow them and get some idea of the impact, but it really does not compare to actually being there.
- Whose “Best of ASCO” is it anyway? This year, there are three ASCO-presented “Best of ASCO” meetings, four U.S. ASCO-licensed “Best of ASCO” meetings, and 27 international ASCO-licensed “Best of ASCO” meetings. These are certainly a reasonable option to get a very condensed idea of the information presented. Whether these “bests” are that same as what you might see as the “best” from the meeting is up to you to decide. Only at the Annual Meeting can you see what you truly consider the “best” for you. The iPlanner app and website equivalent makes that process easier than ever. To brush up on the best of the rest, there are always the morning highlights presentations from the day before.
- Who doesn’t like a little star watching? I wrote last year about the ability at the Annual Meeting to meet and talk with folks we might never get a chance to talk with otherwise. I still look forward to watching the established stars and up-and-comers in our field shine.
- Reconnecting with the past. For those of us out of training for a while (let’s just say more than 10 years but less than 50), it becomes tougher to keep those old friendships forged during training vital. Since the Membership Directory has now set up a “myCONTACTS” page, you can keep a list of those folks, and you will be notified who is attending the meeting. Many institutions also have receptions for their alumni where you can reconnect with “the old gang.”
- Getting excited again. The day-to-day rigors of practice can sometimes become a burden. Seeing yet another stage I colon or breast cancer—while gratifying for the help you are providing for the patient and their family—has a risk of seeming repetitive. I never fail to leave the Annual Meeting with a rekindled sense of excitement. I remember the very cool things that we are working on to help our patients, and I take that sense of renewal back home.
These reasons more than outweigh the “burden” of attending the Annual Meeting. I hope you can find at least one or two that will resonate with you as well. If not this year, maybe the next. If it does and we cross paths, let me know. I’d love to hear about it. Who knows, a beverage or two could cross our paths as well.