Letter from the Editor

Attending a Cardiology Meeting? Which One and Why?

Morton Kern, MD Clinical Editor Clinical Professor of Medicine Associate Chief Cardiology University of California Irvine Orange, California
Morton Kern, MD Clinical Editor Clinical Professor of Medicine Associate Chief Cardiology University of California Irvine Orange, California
Given the ever-growing number of interesting and highly focused meetings, this question is not trivial. We only have a limited number of meeting and vacation days. Let's use them wisely. If we look over the calendar, we can see four major cardiovascular meetings: the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions (AHA), American College of Cardiology Annual Scientific Session (ACC), Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics interventional meeting (TCT) and the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography & Interventions meeting (SCAI). These meetings are given in addition to many ongoing regional and local meetings. Most of the regional meetings deal with focused topics beyond general cardiology or sideshows of mainstream interventional cardiology such as peripheral vascular disease, carotid stenting, computed tomographic (CT) angiography, magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, cath lab basics, regional complication conferences and technical pharmacologic or device-focused conferences. The question of meeting selection is based on several factors: your time available, cost of the meeting, content, meeting size, duration, your personal need for specific or general knowledge, who is doing the teaching and finally the atmosphere of learning (see Table 1). How each one of us picks a meeting is mostly personal, matching our personality to our individual comfort zone. Sometimes staff have no choice in picking a meeting and find one that is close by, conveniently timed and inexpensive. It may also be a meeting attended by their friends and one at which information is presented by a known speaker that all will enjoy hearing. That meeting would probably be better than choosing another random meeting from those on a very long list. What you take from the meeting also depends, of course, on your training level and background, your interest and professional focus. The take-home messages also depend on the quality of the speakers, meeting organization and format. For example, cardiac cath lab nurses with a bent toward interventional cardiology might favor the SCAI and TCT meetings since the content of interventional cardiology is heavily oriented toward cath lab activity and practical performance, with comprehensive review materials included. Those with interest in peripheral vascular disease might choose those programs emphasizing vascular treatment technology such as carotid stenting. Radiology technology devotees might find CT angiography and MR imaging courses more important and stimulating, since this is the area into which their field is quickly moving. The workshops available at many of these courses would include training for nurses and technologists as well as physicians; this would be a feature of high interest to many. Other meetings might carry more didactic content and be less case-oriented. This format would be a negative feature for some who would prefer to have hands-on experience. Finally, the expert panel discussion sessions directed at cath lab personnel may not be included for the time period that the attendee may desire, another feature speaking against that particular meeting format. How should one approach the content of a meeting to decide which sessions to attend? This question, like the earlier one, is also focused on personal needs balanced by the activities presented. For example, the Heart Rhythm Society meeting for electrophysiologists would be especially valuable for those individuals working in the electrophysiology laboratory. On a personal level, my favorite parts of meetings include the case presentations with panel discussions, where audience participation provides an opportunity to ask piercing questions of the panelists. It is always good to put the experts' feet to the fire. I also like the meetings where audience participation is included for film reviews, case complications and new modalities, showing both the good and the bad sides of the devices, techniques and outcomes. I am a biased attendee of many of these meetings; nonetheless, my personal favorite meeting overall is the SCAI followed by TCT, ACC, and our regional interventional cardiology complications conference. Compare your list of meetings against the table to see what kind of meeting would be right for you. I encourage all staff to attend relevant meetings as often as practical. The uplift in morale provided by the professional excitement generated at meetings is an extremely valuable side effect to the time spent on education.