Conference Coverage

AHA 3-day format syncs with new direction in scientific meetings


Although a day shorter than meetings over recent years, more than 4,000 abstracts, keynote addresses, special sessions, and education programs have been squeezed into 800 sessions divided into 26 tracks of interest at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.

Dr. Eric Peterson

Dr. Eric Peterson

“We think that, for both for the presenters as well as for the attendees, this new format is going to be quite lively, exciting, and consistent with where scientific meetings should be going in the future,” explained Eric Peterson, MD, chair of this year’s Committee on Scientific Sessions Program in a teleconference with reporters.

The shorter program is just one of many substantive changes made by the program committee to enhance the value of attendance, according to Dr. Peterson, professor of medicine, Duke University, Durham, N.C. In particular, the committee worked to make the sessions more interactive.

“There will be much less of someone just standing up and delivering slides,” he said. Through phone apps that will allow the audience to pose questions and comments to speakers in every major session, “there will be more opportunities for the audience to give their impression of the science being delivered.”

From the beginning, it was the intention of the program committee “to do things differently,” according to Dr. Peterson as well as his cochair Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, MD, professor of cardiology at Northwestern University, Chicago.

“The 3-day format means full days, but I think that we have packed in some really exciting science,” said Dr. Lloyd-Jones, who described a diverse slate of programming goals. In addition to the traditional emphasis on new science, he said there will be more attention on “new management and new practice opportunities for clinicians to really hone their skills.”

Those coming to the Scientific Sessions will see a difference on the first day. In place of an awards ceremony and presidential address, which have long been staples of the opening sessions, this year’s meeting will begin with a series of simultaneous programs delving into key issues in cardiology and medical practice.

“We are starting things off with a bang with TED-like lectures given in multiple locations addressing the cutting edge of where we are with the hottest things in science,” Dr. Peterson said. “These will cover everything from how your microbiome might be affecting your risk for cardiovascular events to progress toward vaccines that might some day prevent cardiovascular disease.”

Innovative and forward-thinking programs unfold from there, according to Dr. Lloyd-Jones.

Health technology will be a common thread across all 3 days of the Scientific Sessions, according to Dr. Peterson. One of the 26 tracks of this year’s meeting, health technology is imposing fundamental shifts in medical practice and how health care is delivered.

“This is a topic that covers electronic medical records, your cell phone, and mobile wearable devices that can help us as clinicians better understand what is going on with cardiovascular disease as well as help ourselves as individuals modify our risks,” said Dr. Peterson. Within this track, session programs range from how-to instruction to a technology forum organized like the “Shark Tank” television program.

“Health technology is moving rapidly,” Dr. Peterson pointed out. He suggested that the AHA Scientific Sessions provide a unique opportunity for cardiologists to stay current with evolving strategies for efficient care.

Within the effort to update the meeting format, traditional forms of late-breaking science, particularly late-breaking trials with potentially practice changing data, will not be lost. However, Dr. Peterson indicated that he expects this year’s meeting to have a somewhat different pace and sensibility.

“We believe that what we have been doing will not work any longer, and we needed to do things differently,” Dr. Peterson said. While the shorter more concentrated program is one example, Dr. Peterson also believes that the effort to diminish the distance between those who are speaking and those who are listening will lead to a richer experience for everyone.

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