One of the most exciting additions to this year’s Scientific Sessions is the weekend of programming targeted toward fellows-in-training (FIT) and early career members in the American Heart Association Early Career/FIT Lounge. The AHA FIT program was developed in 2016 and was established engage young healthcare professionals through meaningful educational opportunities that facilitate career growth and development. From 2016-2018, nearly 1,000 fellows from ACGME-accredited Cardiovascular, Vascular Neurology, or Pediatric Cardiology fellowships enrolled in the program and enjoyed perks like complimentary AHA membership and free access to the AHA family of journals. Earlier this year, the national AHA FIT Steering Committee reconvened with the goal to create a new and dedicated Scientific Sessions experience for FIT and early career members to network, relax, and learn.
In June, the AHA FIT Steering Committee, chaired by Dr. Ileana Piña, commissioned a FIT Planning Subgroup to create Sessions 2018 programming. Ten AHA FIT members from across the country answered the call for nominations and joined Dr. Jared Magnani on monthly conference calls to make the programming a reality. In the spring, FITs completed short surveys regarding their experiences at Sessions 2017 and shared their thoughts about their overall experience, how many FIT sessions they attended, and suggested topics for future programming. Our Planning Subgroup reviewed those surveys to inform the design of our focused and high-yield events. By October, we had come to consensus regarding the format and topics for our events, and we spent the month leading up to Sessions extending invitations to faculty and FIT panelists. Initially, we were unsure of how our programming and direct outreach would be perceived, but we were humbled by how supportive and enthusiastic our clinicians, scientists, and mentors were about our efforts. In the final two weeks, we led a social media campaign to advertise the event schedule and engaged medical students, residents, and FITs from across the country to join.
The first day of programming exceeded our expectations with almost all sessions being standing room only! Saturday kicked off with an introduction to the FIT program by our AHA liaisons. We then held back-to-back content session with leaders from sports and pediatric cardiology. Drs. Ben Levine, Rachel Lampert, and Eugene Chung shared their pathways to specializing in the care of the athletic patient and offered their thoughts on how FITs can pursue their interests in this field. Dr. Antonio Cabrera led a similar panel discussion with prominent pediatric cardiologists. We were then joined by Dr. Ivor Benjamin who spoke about his successful research career and imparted upon us the importance of finding mentors early in our careers. The most popular session of the day was our panel discussion for residents and medical students interested in pursuing cardiology fellowship. Drs. Eric Yang, Friederike Keating, Frederick Ruberg, and Vincent Sorrell led a lively conversation about the do’s and don’ts of the application and interview process and offered their viewpoints on what makes a stellar applicant. We finished the afternoon with an intimate breakout session with leading women in cardiology. Drs. Martha Gulati, Michelle Albert, Sharonne Hayes, and Erin Michos shared stories about the challenges they have experienced throughout their careers and offered inspiration for young trainees in STEM careers.
Looking ahead to post-Sessions, the program will continue to expand our AHA FIT membership and create innovative opportunities for FIT engagement within the AHA. Keep an eye out for our new FIT Insights Blog and AHA Early Career Blogs, opportunities to learn peer review through our Trainee Reviewer program, and more!
To keep up with all of the events in the Early Career/FIT Lounge, follow the hashtags #AHAFIT and #AHAEarlyCareerBlogger.
Nosheen Reza is a fellow-in-training in advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her interests include cardiovascular genetics and inherited cardiomyopathies, and she volunteers as a member of the AHA Fellow-in-Training National Steering Committee and the Council Operations Committee. You can follow her on Twitter at @noshreza.