I am honored to present my experience at the Anesthesiology Annual Meeting organized by American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). The meeting was held October 19 – 23 2019. The Annual Meeting occurs every October in honor of William Thomas Green Morton, the American Dentist who first publicly demonstrated the use of inhaled ether as a surgical anesthetic on October 16, 1846.
This year, an estimated 14,000 clinicians traveled from countries abroad and within the United States to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. The large meeting space can be overwhelming if one does not plan well ahead of time. An umbrella and comfortable walking shoes were a must!
Understanding the complimentary shuttle service, being prepared to walk to venues in the area, or planning for personal transportation is crucial to getting from one event to the other in a timely fashion. I found it especially useful to create a personalized schedule with the ASA meeting app.
While I have attended the Annual ASA Meeting as a resident physician and attending anesthesiologist, my perspective has significantly changed over the years. Given the timing and proximity of the meeting this year, I found the ASA Annual Meeting to be a baby and family friendly meeting. I was pleasantly surprised by the private and complimentary Mother’s Room and the Family Lounge.
A Day in the Life of an Anesthesiologist was an interesting workshop specifically geared towards kids, and was an excellent addition. Also, there were plenty of activities for all ages at the theme parks in Orlando.
In evaluating my own personal experience after attending the Annual Meeting, I realized that some things have remained the same. Every year that I have attended the ASA, there was a substantial value to be gained for the general anesthesiology practitioner or subspecialties focused individual within the field regardless of career stage.
The Annual Meeting offered a variety of great sessions and clinical tracks, hands-on workshops, Problem-Based Learning Discussions and seminars. Many VSA members were actively involved, to varying degrees, as presenters or moderators of Medically Challenging Cases, panels and/or sessions listed below.
- 60 Minute Panel
- 60 Minute Refresher Course Lecture
- Abstract Group Discussions
- Cadaver Workshops
- Caucus Meetings
- Clinical Forum
- Committee and Editorial Board Meetings
- Featured Abstracts
- Hands-on Workshop
- Interactive Tutorial
- Medically Challenging Cases
- Medical Student Sessions
- Oral Presentations
- Problem-Based Learning Discussions
- Satellite Symposia
- Scientific and Educational Exhibits
- Self-Study Program
- Special Meetings and Events
- Subspecialty Panels
- Ambulatory Anesthesia (AM)
- Cardiac Anesthesia (CA)
- Critical Care Medicine (CC)
- Fundamentals of Anesthesiology (FA)
- Geriatric Anesthesia (GA)
- Neuroanesthesia (NA)
- Obstetric Anesthesia (OB)
- Pain Medicine (PN)
- Pediatric Anesthesia (PD)
- Perioperative Medicine (PE)
- Professional Issues (PI)
- Regional Anesthesia and Acute Pain (RA)
Additional fees were required for the following sessions
- Brain Health Sessions
- Ethics Sessions
- FAER Sessions
- Leadership Development Sessions
- Practice Management Sessions
- Research Sessions
- Recommended Sessions for Residents
- UGRA Sessions
- Trauma Sessions
- Team-based Perioperative Coordinated Care
In addition to lectures, interactive discussions and small group breakouts, there were plenty of educational self-study stations. The Self-Study Program allowed further opportunities to maximize continued medical education credits. There were sessions on Opioid Analgesics for REMS credit, ABA MOCA Part 2 Patient Safety and Part 4 Sessions. I was especially pleased with the adaptation of a more sophisticated credit claiming system. An attendance of at least 15 minutes automatically added the session credit to the attendee once an online evaluation form is completed by December 31, 2019.
Point-counterpoint sessions resulted in great debates focused on critical appraisal of the literature, interpretation of the science, and research in anesthesia. Despite the great discussions and noted advancements in anesthesiology, these sessions often led to the conclusion that more research is needed to improve health and patient care.
There was an interesting pro and con debate about epidural versus interfascial plane blocks for major abdominal surgery. The arguments evolved around the question of thoracic epidurals consideration as the gold standard of care for post op abdominal surgery analgesia.
I noted a very intriguing research discussion highlighting the risks of ketamine use as an opioid alternative. An inspirational research topic that I found useful in improving my clinical practice showed that nitrous oxide labor analgesia did not prevent women in labor from requesting other pain management options.
There were insightful previews of results for late-breaking clinical research. There were studies on medical marijuana, research discussion about the importance of an opioid-free technique for tonsillectomy. Experts discussed perioperative brain health and ways to prevent and treat postoperative delirium in the elderly patient population.
The meeting this year featured abstracts and networking at the Research Central area that included a Research Lounge. FAER, a non-profit, related organization of the ASA, hosted a Celebration of Research, a full day science session for new researchers – Early-stage Anesthesiology Scholars.
Other highlights of the meeting included the following thought-provoking lectures and speeches from award recipients:
- Keynote Address by Dr. Verghese focusing on “Physician-Patient Interaction and How Technology Shapes This Interaction, With Both Opportunities and Challenges”.
- The Gertie Marx lecture presented by Dr. Lawrence Tsen on “Obstetric Anesthesia: Are We There Yet?”
- Distinguished service award recipient winner APSF Dr. Mark Warner.
- Other awards included the Presidential Scholar Award, Excellence in Research, Global Humanitarian Award and James E. Cottrell Presidential Scholar Award
- Dr. Jerome Adams, the first physician anesthesiologist to serve as the United States as Surgeon General, presented the Rovenstine lecture about “The Future of the Physician Anesthesiologist”. He reminded us that anesthesiologists are physician and not proceduralist and our important role in prevention of opioid misuse, community health and economic prosperity.
There were plaques recognizing ASA Distinguished Educators, and our very own VSA president Dr. Jeff Green was one of the few nationwide individuals honored.
Mentoring and leadership
The Society is celebrating three consecutive female ASA presidents: Drs. Linda J. Mason, Mary Dale Peterson and Beverly K. Philip.
The ASA is experiencing an unprecedented history and there is a growing inclusion of diversity within the society. There was a tremendous amount of support for women in anesthesiology, young anesthesiologists, and underrepresented groups. Two VSA members and energetic leaders in our specialty, Drs. Alice Coombs and John Butterworth, took center stage to address intersectionality in an educational forum. Participants received leadership advice, assessment tools and gained insight about practical ways of seeking career mentorship as well as sponsorship.
There was a variety of other workshops and leadership development training to acquire new skills and obtain excellent clinical pearls. Although I did not personally attend all of these sessions, the leadership workshops and sessions were designed to bridge the gap between medical school and clinical practice in complex healthcare environments.
They focused on OR management/efficiency and how it translates to clinical productivity, billing for anesthesiology services, team-building, risk management, legislative issues and advocacy, strategic planning, and financial statements.
For those who were limited on time, a Smart Stage was created for short review of the top 12 medically challenging cases and presentations on current research and innovations. I also noticed many bestselling anesthesiology books and supplementary learning programs such as ACE and SEE 2020 available for purchase at a discounted price.
For non-members, obtaining an ASA membership at the annual meeting was cheaper and incentivized with gifts. ASA members received free gifts, a member pin and complimentary professional headshots. For those who enjoy free gifts, there were daily giveaways of exciting travel destination packages and an Amazon Echo Plus at the Exhibit Hall. Prizes were awarded for correct answers of daily trivia questions, and best selfie posting. The opening reception and free lunches also took place at the exhibit hall.
Navigating through the exhibit hall was an excellent way of exploring the latest innovative equipment and simulation tools, engaging with representatives from 300+ companies, and viewing demos.
The opportunities for networking are an exceptional benefit of attending the ASA annual meeting. Residents and medical students enjoyed a welcome reception, Meet and Greet with Residency Programs, and Fellowship Open House. Employment opportunities and career advancement advice were discussed at the Career Fair
Legislative Affairs and Advocacy
This is where I spent the bulk of my time, resources and energy. As mentioned above, attending the annual meeting requires planning and determination of important goals. Otherwise, one can easily get lost in the massive and overwhelming list of things to do.
One should have at least three top answers for what matters the most. If preserving the future of anesthesiology and that of our patients is high on your list then active involvement or supporting ASA Grassroots is something to consider.
Several members of the VSA delegation were in attendance at the HOD meetings. We learned about upcoming ASA policies, state issues and volunteered our time at the reference committees’ hearings. To no one’s surprise, advocacy for patient safety, compassionate patient care and interactions, protecting patients from surprise medical bills, and surgical caps were hot topics.
Even though there were discussions of a small dues increase, I learned that the ASA charitable foundation, Global Scholars Program, and ASA Policy Research Rotation, both support resident education and experience. Medical students and residents also have leadership training opportunities at Medical Student and Resident Component House of Delegates sessions.
If planning to attend the ASA annual meeting for the first time, I highly recommend stopping by the ASA Advocacy Booth and finding out ways to get involved. The opportunities range from minimal efforts, such as donations to the ASA PAC, FAER, Run/Walk for the Warrior.
The Run/Walk For the Warrior honors and supports service members and Veterans. This year I learned that the ASA also supports the host city by donating to the local charity. For instance, they donated school supplies for kids in need in central Florida through the Gift for Teaching charity. Every $1 you donate was matched with $10 worth of school supplies for students.
The annual meeting is always a great time of the year for me to connect with my friends, former classmates, mentors, and colleagues. This year, I was able to include my family in the annual event, making it even more special for us. I look forward to our department’s reception where we often have former residents in attendance.
The VSA luncheon and reception are always good times to meet candidates running for office, ask them questions and catch up with regional VSA members while enjoying good food and drinks. The medical students and residents turn out at these ASA events is a wonderful demonstration of their commitment to the specialty. The anesthesia resident’s involvement in ASA poster submission, presentations, and advocacy is a morale and confidence booster that the future of our specialty remains bright!
I usually leave the conference feeling exhausted and at the same time mentally stimulated. The Annual Meeting is always worth it and I look forward to returning to work with new ideas on how we can improve patient health. I know it is not too early to plan ahead and take advantage of all there is to learn at ANESTHESIOLOGY 2020 being held on October 3-7 in Washington, D.C.
Hope to see you in D.C.!