Author + information
- Received July 10, 2018
- Revision received August 16, 2018
- Accepted August 21, 2018
- Published online October 15, 2018.
- Andrew M. Kates, MDa,∗ (, )@akates01@ACCinTouch,
- Pamela Morris, MDb,
- Athena Poppas, MDc and
- Jeffrey T. Kuvin, MDd
- aWashington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri
- bMedical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina
- cBrown University, Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island
- dHeart and Vascular Center, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire
- ↵∗Address for correspondence:
Dr. Andrew M. Kates, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 South Euclid Avenue Campus, Box 8086, St. Louis, Missouri 63110.
Annual live meetings are a focus for many organizations and professional societies and have long been considered an essential part of lifelong learning. Live meetings offer a venue for a wide range of topics including late breaking science, traditional and novel educational formats, networking opportunities, integration of technology, engagement of the cardiovascular team, and more. Although many factors provide challenges for the future of live annual meetings, there are many opportunities as well. The unique aspects of interactions and experiences at these meetings will maintain their importance in the lifelong learning toolbox.
Live meetings, long considered an essential part of lifelong learning, are an important conduit for the delivery of knowledge, offering participants the opportunity to learn, experience, interact, and explore. Live meetings remain a cornerstone of medical education. In the case of the American College of Cardiology (ACC), annual scientific sessions have taken place since the founding of the College nearly 70 years ago (1). Over time, the ACC annual meeting, like others, has grown into a multinational, multifaceted event. As competition increases for time, funding and science, along with the evolution of multisource and online education, questions remain as to the longevity and importance of large-scale, live meetings.
Annual live meetings are a focus point for many organizations and professional societies. In the United States, the 2 largest cardiovascular conferences, the ACC and the American Heart Association annual meetings, have enjoyed a long history of robust attendance and fanfare. Numerous other international organizations and specialty professional societies similarly hold large-scale meetings. These conferences contribute in many impactful ways to the field of cardiovascular medicine, the scientific community, and the professional societies. Typically taking place over several days, live annual meetings offer attendees a kaleidoscope of integrated experiences: late-breaking science, focused research presentations, a variety of educational programming, and opportunities to network with colleagues and interact with industry.
As with many other national conferences, the ACC Annual Scientific Session has increased in scope and size since the inaugural meeting more than one-half century ago. The 2018 ACC Annual Scientific Sessions (ACC.18) had approximately 18,000 professionals in attendance, featuring 20 late breaking clinical trials, 17 featured clinical research presentations, more than 2,700 poster abstracts, 310 educational sessions with a wide array of educational formats, 1,600 faculty, and 300 industry exhibitors. Meeting attendees’ needs for nonclinical education, including professionalism and leadership training, practice management, and advocacy, has become an important part of in-person meetings in recent years. Digital streaming of key sessions and live case transmissions have kept meetings contemporary and accessible to those not in attendance. The engagement of the cardiovascular care team along with programming to meet the needs of attendees at all stages of careers have expanded the relevance of live meeting content. The importance of international collaboration and interaction during annual conferences is felt to be crucial to sustain progress in cardiovascular disease management and prevention in our increasingly flat world.
Live meetings provide an in-person format for the delivery of novel research findings. Indeed, a key feature of most annual scientific sessions is presentation of late-breaking science. Presentation of new information in this venue offers a chance to share fresh, previously unreported data to a live audience with real-time discussion. For the ACC Annual Scientific Sessions, those abstracts vying for a position as “Late Breaking Clinical Trial” are submitted separately from other abstracts. These abstracts are carefully analyzed and reviewed by a multidisciplinary, expert peer panel. At the time of abstract review, complete datasets are often not yet available. Thus, the outcomes of many of the studies are not known until the live presentation. Abstracts are selected for late-breaking presentations based on their potential for a direct effect on clinical cardiovascular care. Studies that are not chosen as “late breakers” may be selected for presentation in Featured Clinical Research sessions or in the general abstract group.
Authors of accepted abstracts for live presentation at late-breaking sessions are expected to present their data “as is,” that is, whether “positive” or “negative.” No attempts are made to modify author remarks prior to the meeting, and all information is held within embargo restrictions. The intent is for presenters to discuss the latest science in an open forum with discussants who are recognized as thought leaders in the field providing on-site peer review. Further analysis in deep-dive sessions, media presentations, and numerous other venues inside and outside of the meeting environment add to the commentary. In addition, social media dialogue and press coverage provide opportunities for data analysis and critique of author “spin.” At times, late-breaking research presenters may be criticized for overly ambitious claims during and/or after presentations (2). Yet, key to these meetings is the open discussion that ensues throughout the medical community and holds presenters to task for these ambitious exploratory analyses. Ultimately, it is left to practitioners to decide whether or not the presented data are, indeed, practice changing. Additionally, data collection and analysis for late breaking science do not always provide sufficient time for simultaneously released manuscripts and the traditional peer review that goes with it. It is this type of urgency that fosters excitement and buzz that often accompany live, never-before-seen research presentations. This was evident at ACC.18, where a few of the prominent late-breaking science presentations were not yet ready for simultaneous journal release. The live presentation format allows for the confluence of clinicians, scientists, industry, press, and the entire medical community to critique data, which is critical for advancing science and improving patient care.
Live meetings, such as ACC.18, offer a wide array of traditional and novel education experiences and are an ideal forum for instructional innovation. Attendees, now more appropriately called learners, are able to reinforce knowledge in a variety of areas within cardiovascular medicine, while learning novel science and exploring other innovative and thought-provoking ideas. The concept of “less lecturing, more learning” is now readily apparent, as classroom education has evolved from a strict didactic format to greater interactivity, featuring multidisciplinary panel discussions, audience response questions, and role-playing. Outside the classroom, learning at large meetings has also evolved with ample opportunities for hands-on training with procedure skills simulation and team-based care. Continuing medical education and maintenance of certification credits are now available for most educational activities. Industry-sponsored education has also evolved into a collaborative effort, with a focus on sharing knowledge and experience.
Engagement of the Cardiovascular Care Team
National meetings have traditionally focused on physician-only education. Attendees at ACC and other national meetings reflect the changes in the composition of the cardiovascular team, with a wide variety of cardiovascular professionals, including physicians, nurses and advanced nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physician assistants, and many others. As meetings have progressed to address the educational needs of many members of the cardiovascular team, continuing educational credits are now available for nursing colleagues, pharmacists, and a number of international colleagues. The idea of learning from a variety of team members has propelled team-based care to a new level. The world of cardiovascular medicine has become a showcase of teamwork, as exemplified by the heart team approach to valvular heart disease. Large, national meetings allow for integration of team-based education, interaction, and collaborative experiences. Speakers are chosen based on competencies, as content experts and educators are selected to represent the diversity of the society’s membership and meeting attendees.
Interacting with colleagues and experts remains one of the most important aspects of the live meeting. In fact, over one-half of ACC.18 attendees indicated that networking opportunities were a major reason to attend the annual scientific meeting (personal communication, American College of Cardiology, June 4, 2018). Typically, large conferences provide rich environments to meet with peers and colleagues from around the country and around the globe, including representatives from industry and other allied professions. It is difficult to quantify the impact of networking; however, qualitatively, face-to-face interaction remains a key draw to live meetings. This notion of networking goes beyond meeting with old friends. Indeed, these meetings provide opportunities for fellows-in-training to meet with mentors and future employers, researchers to meet with collaborators and with industry representatives, and for all attendees to have further interactions with colleagues from a variety of professions within the field of cardiology.
An important part of the evolution of live meetings has been the integration of technology into the program. This includes components such as smartphone applications to enhance the meeting experience, audience response systems to engage learners in the session dialogues, as well as social media to expand the reach of science and educational programming. The involvement of social media through platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and others has grown exponentially, providing enhanced learning and interactions for attendees as well as those not in attendance. These platforms provide unique opportunities to share new information, have important dialogue, and improve networking.
The Future of Live Meetings
There are many factors that provide challenges for the future of live annual meetings. These include the economics of travel, availability of online in real time, and professional time constraints, all of which may push attendees to stay at home (3). Additionally, an emerging trend at some meetings to invite celebrity speakers may, in fact, distract from the society’s intended message. However, the factors that may lead some to stay at home might be seen as stimuli to improve delivery of educational content and science to those who choose not to attend and to use social media and live streaming or other means of interactive learning to extend the reach. Last, the development of improved methods of repurposing information shared at these meetings will further increase the footprint of these meetings.
Although there are limited tools to examine the present need and satisfaction for large annual meetings, recent data from ACC.18 indicate increasing satisfaction with this meeting over the years (personal communication, American College of Cardiology, June 4, 2018) (Central Illustration). Reasons cited for increasing attendee satisfaction include varied learning opportunities, interactivity and networking, and the chance to explore new areas within cardiovascular medicine. The question remains as to the importance of participating in live annual meetings, as only a fraction of cardiovascular professionals are in attendance each year. Furthermore, there is competition between professional societies, industry-supported educational programming, and university or healthcare system-sponsored courses. Certainly, variety in educational options is good and drives improved delivery of the quality programming, with the ultimate goal of improving the care and health of our patients.
The landscape of the live annual meeting has changed over the years. The ability to obtain information electronically, decreasing industry support, increasing productivity pressure by employers, and travel costs are just a few reasons for re-examination of attendance at large annual meetings. Results from late breaking science can frequently be viewed concurrent with the presentation, often with simultaneous journal publication. Many smaller, niche live meetings cater to specific areas of interest and often allow for more focused education and individualized learning. Despite these challenges, we argue (to paraphrase Mark Twain) that reports of the death of the annual meeting may be greatly exaggerated. To engage and interact with colleagues, discuss late-breaking science in real time, learn in a myriad educational formats from internationally recognized content experts, and inspire cardiovascular specialists throughout the span of their career are just some of the reasons that live scientific meetings will continue to be an important tool in the lifelong learning tool box.
The authors have reported that they have no relationships relevant to the contents of this paper to disclose.
- Received July 10, 2018.
- Revision received August 16, 2018.
- Accepted August 21, 2018.
- 2018 American College of Cardiology Foundation
- Harold J.G.
- Pocock S.J.,
- Collier T.J.
- King S.B. 3rd.