Get the Most Out of the Annual Meeting

STS News, Winter 2018 -- Whether it’s your first time attending the STS Annual Meeting or your 20th, making the most of your time in Fort Lauderdale will require planning and a good dose of flexibility. Three veteran meeting attendees share their best advice to help you maximize your experience.

Plan Your Schedule

“I first check out the weekend sessions, such as Tech-Con, followed by the specialty symposia. That’s how I plan my flights for arriving and departing,” said Robbin G. Cohen, MD, MMM, Associate Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

The Abstract Book, available at sts.org/annualmeeting, offers detailed descriptions and agendas for the entire meeting. The STS Meetings app, available at sts.org/mobileapp, also can help you plan ahead. You can save sessions and presentations to your personal itinerary, then set alerts so that you’re reminded when they’re about to begin.

Get a Well-Rounded Experience

While many Annual Meeting sessions offer in-depth science, technology, and hands-on learning, others address the practice management side of cardiothoracic surgery. For the 2018 Annual Meeting, these sessions include the Practice Management Summit (Sunday), Diversity and Inclusion in Cardiothoracic Surgery: What’s In It for Me? (Monday), and The Importance of Physician Documentation in Reimbursement (Monday).

Kevin D. Accola, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Cardiovascular Surgeons PA in Orlando, encourages his colleagues to attend the STS Key Contacts session on Monday and the Health Policy Forum on Tuesday so that they can advocate for the specialty.

“It’s essential that cardiothoracic surgeons and others in our field become knowledgeable about changes in our health care system, as they impact our daily practice,” he said.

Kevin D. Accola, MD asks a question during the 2017 Annual Meeting.

Dr. Accola also strongly encourages attendees to participate during sessions, whether it’s during the Q&A portion of a session or via polling software available in select sessions. “The discussion opportunities are very informal and provide ample opportunity for further interaction and exchange of new ideas,” he said.

Visit the Exhibit Hall

In addition to offering insightful information about Annual Meeting sessions, the STS Meeting Bulletin, which is available in bins throughout the convention center, offers a map of the Exhibit Hall and descriptions about what companies are offering at their booths.

“I frequently find a new instrument or idea that I hadn’t thought of,” Dr. Cohen said. “Visiting the Exhibit Hall also helps you establish relationships with salespeople and their managers who might be good resources in the future.”

The Society has a booth in the Exhibit Hall (#807) where attendees can learn about everything STS, such as membership, The Annals of Thoracic Surgery, and the STS National Database.

Data managers and surgeons participating in the STS National Database should take time to visit the STS Regional Data Managers booth (#1112). “It’s a great way to find out what’s going on around the country and how to become more involved with local efforts,” said Syma Prince, RN, BSN, AACC, Director of Cardiovascular Outcomes at HCA North Texas in Dallas. “These regional initiatives are where some of the strongest networks are built.”

Build Your Network

Networking is an essential component of the Annual Meeting experience.

“People I’ve met at the Annual Meeting have remained mentors throughout my career and become close friends,” Dr. Accola said.

Dr. Cohen agreed. “I would advise new and young members to not be shy about attending social events and approaching even the most famous members in our field,” he said. “I think STS is a really inclusive organization that is welcoming of young talent.”

"The discussion opportunities are very informal and provide ample opportunity for further interaction and exchange of new ideas."

Kevin D. Accola, MD

One of the highlights of the meeting is the President’s Reception, which will be held on Sunday evening at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa. On the other evenings, industry-sponsored satellite activities feature expert talks and oftentimes a free meal (find a list in the Program Guide or STS Meeting Bulletin).

“Many surgeons have been invited to industry dinners in advance by their local reps,” Dr. Cohen said. “These are not part of the STS educational program, but can be another good way to learn about new technology in development.”

Recharge Your Batteries

Relaxing in your hotel room with room service can be a refreshing option after days filled with learning and socializing.

“The meeting can be a lot to take in. There’s nothing wrong with getting in some downtime so that you’re ready to go tomorrow,” Prince advised.