The Year #Virtual became #Reality

As we inch closer to the end of 2020 (with still a LOT left on the horizon), I’ve tried to take time here and there, to note the type of changes one calendar year has brought on to our greater science community. From my own personal, early career scientist, point of view (keeping in mind not to generalize or overextend my experiences onto others), I see a lot of lessons that scientists and healthcare professionals quickly learned and adopted. In a year where the biggest story worldwide was in fact a medical and scientific topic, it makes sense that we had to accept and innovate as much as we can, to match the needs of the moment we find ourselves in.

The annual conference meetings that our shared professional academic, medical and scientific societies have, are known to be the best conduits for a  concentrated infusion of the latest information in our fields. Meetings such as the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions have the added value of connecting colleagues and creating bigger networks of potential collaborators. This has always been an essential element of early career advancement in the fields of science and medicine. Networking sessions in conferences are always the highlight events, more so than the “Current advances in ____ biology” or “Late-breaking outcomes of ___ trial” sessions (or at least as important as those really cool sessions!).

This is why at every conference I virtually attended this year, I looked with great anticipation beforehand to know if networking events are still scheduled? And if so, then how is this essential element of connecting participants and attendees getting the attention it needs? In 2020, not all annual meetings for professional societies were able to be held, it’s not easy to switch gears from a tried and true in-person gathering to a completely #Virtual experience. Some meetings managed to make the switch to the online-based delivery, but had an understandably much-reduced networking and connection elements involved. But as the seasons progressed from spring to summer to fall, I was happy to see continued innovation and application of everything possible, to deliver information and promote interaction, in increasingly impressive state-of-the-art platforms for presenting conferences.

(Collage from CC-0 images at

Another important element now of conference attendance is the increased integration of Social Media as part of the immersive conference experience. Online presence and connection, using platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, between various conference participants and attendees, has been a welcome additional element over the past few years. It’s very useful for someone who wants to catch the talk of a conference presenter when that presenter would tweet where and when the talk is starting, prompting all their “followers” to know exactly where to go, or in a virtual setting, when and which links to click!

Conference organizers have utilized social media accounts to provide vital data such as agendas, video highlights, links, and ways to tag and spotlight the various individuals who are active and participating in these conferences. I would personally recommend Twitter as the best online tool for adding to a conference attendance! Conference “ambassadors”, like myself and many others, as well as representatives from different institutions and committees, are all actively Live-tweeting sessions, providing quick-takes and summary recaps, and initiating discussions on the topics presented in conferences. This virtual way of connecting and interacting in meetings has added an exciting dimension to conference attendance, both in-person and probably even more so this year for virtual meetings, allowing for an extra level of networking, which has always been a core element of attending conferences.

Adaptation and innovation have a lot to say in 2020 – and we’ll see where we go in 2021. But it’s good to know that, even in a virtual setting, we can still learn novel science, connect with one another, and advance the role that our shared community has – Delivering better health to the world.


“The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author(s) alone and do not represent those of the American Heart Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The Early Career Voice blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.”