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Promise of Interaction Drives Many Back to Annual Meeting

In a world where it seems you can get almost anything you want online, the AAO-HNSF Annual Meeting & OTO EXPO℠  offers educational stimulation, personal interaction, and real-world experiences that are out of the Wi-Fi range of your computer.

“My first Academy meeting was 38 years ago, and I’ve gone every year since. It’s as exciting as a Ringling Brothers three-ring circus,” said Andrew Blitzer, MD, DDS, professor emeritus of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. “Everything is going on and it allows people to get anything they want that’s relative to their curiosity or practice. There are socioeconomic things, legislative items, basic science, and clinical science.”

Tops among those attractions for Dr. Blitzer, though, is the exposure to information not available online or in print.

“I’m a clinical scientist and a clinician. By the time research is vetted and published in the literature, it’s already three to five years old,” he said. “If I go to this meeting, I meet people from around the world, and for me their current information is much more useful.”

The educational value of live sessions was reinforced by Daniel Wohl, MD, Baptist Medical Center, Jacksonville, FL, who likes to attend all Annual Meeting podium presentations, but especially enjoys Miniseminars.

“They address major subjects,” he said. “You can learn so much in an enhanced fashion by hearing the presentation and discussion from three or four experts. They help you synthesize and coalesce new information. And, with so many Miniseminar options to choose from, over the course of the Annual Meeting they have become an extremely worthwhile and efficient way to satisfy my diverse educational objectives.

“The first half of my career was as an academic physician, but when I segued into private practice, I realized how important it is to make the effort to maintain an up-to-date knowledge base.”

An interesting realization of several long-time attendees is that their educational perspectives flipped over the course of more than a decade of attending Annual Meetings. As students and then young physicians, they wanted to hear the specialty’s thought-leaders, but as they evolved into those roles, they found they like meeting with more practicing clinicians.

“My first meeting was in the early ’90s, when I went to get an education as a resident. Now, I want to see what other people think about products, techniques, and the way practice is changing,” said Dole Baker, Jr., MD, of Anderson ENT, Anderson, SC. “When you are in private practice, it is good to reconfirm that what you are doing is good basic care.

“It is good to go to lunch, sit at a table, and hear people from the other side of the country talking about practice management, HR, technology issues you deal with, and solutions you work through.”

Kenneth W. Altman, MD, PhD, professor and vice chair for clinical affairs, Bobby R. Alford Department of Otolaryngology-HNS, Baylor College of Medicine, offers a similar opinion, but from an academic perspective.

“No one should practice medicine in a vacuum,” he said. “It is important to touch base with your roots of training. I like to attend research presentations, which inspire my own research ideas.

“Being in touch with your roots, means camaraderie…things that put me in touch with myself. That is my major take-home message. It’s a wonderful meeting to be at.”

Michael Setzen, MD, chief of the Rhinology Section, North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, NY, and clinical associate professor of otolaryngology, New York University School of Medicine, has attended 25 Annual Meetings and often is a panelist at education sessions, where he enjoys listening as well as speaking.

“When I am involved in a panel, it is always a great learning opportunity to hear how experts in field treat issues,” he said. “I like being asked questions from the audience because it is an opportunity for interaction.”

Finally, the learning continues at the OTO EXPO, too, said Dr. Blitzer, who also is adjunct professor of neurology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and director, New York Center for Voice and Swallowing Disorders.

“It’s a wonderful place to see new products and an opportunity to meet with industrial people,” he said. “You have a chance to meet 20 companies about ideas, and sometimes get research funding. It is the largest exhibit of companies of any meeting in the specialty.”