Be In the Room Where It Happens

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” ––Charles Dickens

COVID pandemics has changed courses in many people’s lives, as well as approaches in professional development. Amidst many obstacles and disadvantages in 2020, the American Heart Association (AHA) made a remarkable attempt to host a successful virtual scientific conference and brought the scientific community even closer. It exemplifies the AHA mission perfectly: “To be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives”.

Can you image a scientific conference started out with a dance tutorial at the beginning of the day? Can you image a virtual matchmaker helping you arrange a meeting schedule based on your own interest? Can you image getting fresh insights on how to cook and eat healthy food in a scientific conference which traditionally centered mostly on basic and clinical sciences? None of these are classic meeting experiences. The technological development and the focus on mental health as well as physical health in the past few decades made these experiences possible. AHA implemented a well-thought-out plan to capitalize technology and carry out its goal elegantly. The “previews” and “daily recap” videos in the Scientific Session 2020 are both entertaining and informative. Each day, a few short videos encompassed the highlights and the anticipations of the next day featuring four prominent scientists including Drs. Donald Lloyd-Jones and Manesh Patel (Fig. 1). This sophisticated approach helped attendees navigate the meeting effortlessly.

Fig 1: Screen shot of the daily recap from AHA website. (

Just like the president of AHA, Mitchell S.V. Elkind, MD, MS, FAHA, FAAN, mentioned at his Conner lecture in Scientific Session 2020, there are many problems we are facing right now such as COVID pandemics, economic depression, structural racism and climate change. These seemingly distinct crisis underlies the fundamental threat to humanity and public health disparities. He sees the “bridges” connecting these issues and which will shed light to “the brighter and more hopeful future beyond”.

The AHA new 2024 impact goal announced by AHA CEO Nancy Brown provides a clear vision of the AHA future endeavor:

“Every person deserves the opportunity for a full, healthy life. As champions for health equity, by 2024, the AHA will advance cardiovascular health for all, including identifying and removing barriers to health care access and quality.”

Brown emphasized the everlasting long-term commitment of AHA to the well-being of all people everywhere. She listed many significant contributions AHA made in 2020 to address these issues. These efforts span a wide range of addressing issues including supporting social entrepreneurs working in under-resourced communities, supporting Voices for Healthy Kids project, Lifeline projects in many regions, COVID related supports, research and technology-focused projects to help heart and brain research, women’s health, establishing a center of hemorrhagic stroke research and training opportunities, investing research on e-cigarettes and nicotine consumptions among youth, etc. These extraordinary efforts AHA made in the year of COVID pandemic bring us hope that humanity can still thrive even in the events of great disadvantages.

The “OnDemand” function is the crown jewel of virtual experience in Scientific Session 2020. A well-organized scientific conference usually is very compact. Running around and trying to navigate in a big convention center is not a fun memory, especially if the meeting schedule was back-to-back. Another frustration involves in having to choose between two concurrent sessions and inevitably missed the other. The “OnDemand” function makes the old problems obsolete. To maximize the meeting experience, it provides freedom to visit the session when and where it’s convenient to you and rewind as you please. It ultimately puts you “in the room where it happens”. Thanks to this “intimate” approach, the meeting experience is even more welcoming in Scientific Session 2020. It’s undeniable that face-to-face conversations cannot be completely replaced by virtual experience, this year’s unique opportunity provides a strong potential for a “hybrid” meeting format, which could maximize future experiences in scientific learning and interactions profoundly.


“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.”