hidden

Series 1 – Interview with a Pioneer in Humanitarian and Voluntary Work: Dr. Yassine Abdeljebbar

I have always been impressed and inspired by the impact of medicine and voluntary work on people’s life.  I have recently known about great initiatives and projects organized by young physicians across the globe to help those who are in need. I had the pleasure to interview one of these inspiring physicians, Dr. Yassine Abdeljebbar. I decided to dedicate series of blogs to talk about voluntary and humanitarian work, how to get involved in these projects and how was Dr. Yassine Abdeljebbar’s experience in this field.

It is our pleasure to interview you Dr. Yassine Abdeljebbar!! To start our interview, tell us about yourself and your brief journey.

 I am a young doctor, started my career in a public hospital and joined from the beginning of my career the health center located in the Algerian extreme south, In Guezzam more precisely. I came to the United States of America to do research as a postdoctoral fellow at Mount Sinai hospital Icahn school of medicine in 2019.

Originally from west Algeria, since I started studying medicine, I have always tried to put my services to the most disadvantaged, which provided me a rich experience in the charitable field. I am a member of many organizations and medical associations, even environmental ones such as Collective HAMEB, Je Vous Aime, AAMICO, OIM , we Algerians .. etc

 Today, I am committed to promoting a positive spirit in the new generations. I aim to inspire the young people who would, in turn, like to become activists by sharing my experience and my passion for mutual aid and solidarity through various humanitarian actions, conferences, workshops, appearances on television, radio, and on social networks.

How did you come up with the idea of ​​devoting yourself to humanitarian work?

The idea of ​​humanitarian work had been around since I was young.  As a human, I felt a desire but, above all an immense need to help others.  I have never imagined walking my way past someone who needs me without reaching out to him.  I dreamed of doing medicine to help those who are suffering because I can understand their struggles. My principle is humanity above all. As a doctor, you should put yourself in the patient’s shoes, sympathize with his pain, and then do everything possible to ease the pain.

Thanks to my parents, I am capable of chairing my passion for charity work today. They encouraged me to study medicine and help people who are in need.

Any advice for doctors or future doctors who want to get into humanitarian work?

Humanitarian work doesn’t just give you moral satisfaction, it’s also a great way to learn medicine in the field, so never hesitate to get involved with others. It’s an excellent experience that will help you and your community.

Stay tuned for more discussions in future blogs!! In future blogs, we will discuss more of these humanitarian activities, share some photos of prior experiences, and share resources for those interested in joining.

I would like to say a special thank you to Dr. Yassine Abdeljebbar, who dedicated the time to interview with us and share his experiences with all of us.

 

“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.”

hidden

You May Turn Off Your Cameras Now: Trials & Tribulations of the Cardiology Fellowship Zoom Interview Trail

Last month, I dedicated my blog post to tips for prospective Cardiology fellowship applicants. In this companion piece, I would like to share my experience on the Cardiology fellowship virtual interview trail. Part of my motivation is to provide additional information for Cardiology fellowship applicants, but also to shed light on various approaches – both successful and unsuccessful – to the virtual interviews. There was much hand-wringing this past year about the diminishment of the fellowship interview experience, which by necessity became all-virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In some ways, it was better – the lack of travel made it more affordable and increased flexibility. In other ways, it was worse – being on camera for seemingly endless hours and feeling as if programs were invading your private space at home. Here are some takeaways from the 2020 Cardiology fellowship virtual interview season.

Virtual interviews are convenient

Say what you want about virtual interviews, but there is no denying that they are more affordable, convenient and flexible. Residents working 60-80 hours a week suddenly did not have to spend thousands of dollars traveling around the country. Applicants did not have to leave the comfort of their own home or office to interview around the country and as a result did not have to work as hard to find extra coverage. These decreased barriers democratized the interview process. However, virtual interviews also encouraged applicants to apply to more programs, clogging up the application pile and making it harder for fellowship program directors select among many highly qualified applicants.

Virtual interviews are surprisingly exhausting

Although Zoom interviews were convenient, many applicants found them to be mentally and emotionally draining. No matter how hard you try, Zoom cannot replace a real-life social interaction that is influenced not just by the things that you say or your facial expressions, but by the environment around you and the participants’ body language. Much of this context is lost during a video interview. Instead you are left with the feeling that you must be “on” all the time, lest the person on the other side of the camera misperceive you as being uninterested. That is not to say that you are not being closely observed at an in-person interview, but that this feeling of being under the eye is heightened when you are staring at a blinking green camera dot on your laptop for hours on end. As a result, the overall experience ended up being more tiring than I anticipated.

We could all stand to spend less time on camera

Although I have always thought of myself as an extroverted person, I found it difficult to be on camera for more than a couple of hours at a time. In fact, I greatly appreciated when program directors or coordinators took care to encourage us to take a break and turn off our cameras during gaps in between interviews. During these breaks, I would get up, stretch, and in a few cases even left my apartment to go for a short walk around my neighborhood.

A virtual interview does not need to last an entire day

I grew to appreciate efficiency and brevity in a virtual interview day. One interview day lasted for nine hours. By the eighth hour, I felt exhausted and unable to retain any further information. I had heard what I needed to hear about the program; those last few hours did not augment my experience. The most memorable part of the day ended up being the relief I felt when I logged off as the sun was setting. That overall experience would have been more pleasant, and the same amount of information would still have been conveyed, if the day had ended a few hours earlier. Therefore, I would argue that the ideal interview day length is four to five hours: a program should be able to conduct interviews and transmit all key information to applicants in, at most, six hours.

It’s hard to get the “pre-interview dinner” right on Zoom

Some programs chose to host a pre-interview Zoom “dinner” the night(s) before the interview, while others did not. Looking back on it, this decision did not affect how I viewed individual programs. I found one-on-one conversations in which I could talk with current fellows, especially fellows with whom I had some kind of personal connection, to be much more helpful than stilted virtual “dinners.” The experience with these Zoom “dinners” was variable. Some were well-run, leaving little ambiguity about what we were supposed to do at any given time and controlling the pace of conversations in a way that avoided awkward pauses. Others were disorganized to the point of being uncomfortable to sit through. These sessions are challenging because while some people prefer to be very active participants, others wish to more passively observe and take in information. It is difficult to cater to both of these types of people in a way that feels natural.

My recommendation: if you are going to host a Zoom, the session should be heavily structured so that 1) participants know exactly what to do at any given time, 2) applicants are given the space to ask questions without having to compete with others (short, timed breakout room sessions help with this), 3) providing discussion topics to fellows in case a group of applicants is unusually quiet and 4) ending sessions in a timely fashion so that participants do not have to sit in excruciating silence when everyone has run out of things to discuss. Efficiency is your friend here, as well.

You CAN still get a “feel” for a place without physically being there

Program directors and applicants were concerned that we would not get a good “feel” for individual programs without physically being there. I found conversations with fellows and attendings at various programs to be incredibly helpful in filling this gap. To my own surprise, by the end of most interview days, I logged off feeling as though I had a pretty good sense of what each program valued and ways and whether it might be a good fit for me.

Virtual interviews should be an opportunity to re-think how we do interviews

Instead of perceiving it as a crutch, program directors should view the virtual aspect as a chance to revitalize the interview day and distill it to its essentials. In some interviews, it felt as though programs were trying to recreate the entire in-person interview day on Zoom. This is a flawed approach because not everything translates well to Zoom. For example, pre-produced videos about the program do not need to be played in real-time during the interview day – applicants can watch these on their own time. Likewise, some PowerPoint presentations could also be pre-recorded for applicants to view in advance. The end result would be a leaner, more efficient interview day in which the limited on-camera time is spent interacting with others, so that applicants come away with a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of each program without spending an entire business day on camera.

 

“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.”

hidden

Reflections and Projections: An Interview Post a Virtual Conference

As many of us know and have experienced by now, the 2020 global pandemic has forced most conferences to cancel, postpone, or alter their planned in-person settings. For meetings that opted to switch these important gatherings to a brand new all-virtual format, many challenges were faced, but also new opportunities to re-invent the conference experience have sprouted. In my personal perspective, I continued to see rapid evolution and advancement of the virtual format setting of such meetings, from the early days of the pandemic in the spring to the most recent conference I participated in, which just happens to be the biggest meeting in the cardiovascular field, the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions. Earlier, I wrote a couple of blogs describing my experience at #AHA20 (you can read them here: “The Year #Virtual became #Reality”, and “Lurking: The Art of Passive Learning in Meetings”)

Today though, instead of my thoughts, I wanted to interview someone that has even more insight and know-how with AHA meetings, and therefore can really speak to the differences (and opportunities) that make this year a unique conference experience. My guest for this post-conference interview is Dr. Sean Wu, MD. PhD., a physician-scientist at the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, and the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. He is also the current Chair of the Basic Cardiovascular Sciences (BCVS) Early Career Committee, and a long time active member of the AHA and BCVS council. Sean and I work together within the BCVS community, and we’re both big fans of using social media to communicate science, and promote networking (you can follow Sean on Twitter here, and the BCVS Early Career Committee here).

This transcript is a lightly edited version of the interview we conducted on webcam, shortly after the end of #AHA20.

Mo: Let’s start with a big-picture view of the meeting. Could you tell us how the overall experience was like in your viewpoint, given that this year’s #AHA20 was a virtual conference?

Sean: The AHA meeting has given us a taste for what’s to come in the future. Clearly many have seen positives from this format: easy tracking and joining of sessions; rewatch or catch-up of missed sessions; ease of asking questions using chat boxes instead of physically asking questions on the mic in a room. However, certainly, there is a reduction in the networking potential, but continued innovation and offering of social networking sessions, such as BCVS Early Career Social at #AHA20, can replace some of those missed opportunities.

Mo: Share with us one of the sessions that most interest you at #AHA20, and tell us a little bit about why it was a highlight for you?

Sean: There were so many great sessions, it is hard to pick just one of course. Certainly, a session that garnered attention and featured a lot of the up-and-coming areas of science was called “Cardio-Oncology, Meet Your New Neighbour: Immunology”. This session was a highlight for many reasons, such as the ability to combine multiple disciplines such as cancer disease and therapy, cardiovascular disease and research, as well as the fundamental mechanisms of immunology that tie these diseases and require novel research approaches and future therapy options.

Mo: Considering the format change in 2020, conference planning and attending has gone through a lot of innovative changes. What role do you see social media playing in complementing the experiences of a virtual setting meeting?

Sean: Definitely social media has changed multiple aspects within our scientific community. On social media, the democratic stage allows voices from all levels of the community to interact and discuss openly just published research being shared online. Discussions spark and propel future research avenues. When it comes to the virtual format of conferences presently, social media chats, specific hashtags, and the resulting impressions and other metrics have increased significantly compared to previous years, continuing the upward slope of gain that social media involvement has in the scientific communities that populate it.

Mo: Some of the advantages of virtual meetings include ease of access, lower financial commitments, and increased diversity of participants. Would you say these advantages are enough for you to recommend this experience to trainees and early career professionals?

Sean: At the present moment, and in a future where virtual conferences are the only options, the recommendation is for sure to join in and participate, because the knowledge gained and evolving networking avenues are still very relevant and important to have, This is especially vital at the trainee and early career level in science, which typically has limited potential for interaction outside the requirements of pushing research forward. Additionally the ability to have more global participation in meetings that can bring scientists that otherwise would have been too geographically far, and/or face financial difficulty to make it to the meeting, for them to be part of the gathering is a definite advantage of virtual meeting formats.

Mo: In your viewpoint, what are some of the high-value components to add when a conference planning committee is set to organize a future science meeting?

Sean: One of the most important aspects of science meetings is promoting networking opportunities, especially for the early-career scientists attending those meetings. These types of networking sessions can be designed as mixers/socials, or more structured mentoring/advice panel discussions. These sessions are extremely valuable components of a scientific meeting. Another type of session that would be very beneficial to have is something designed to illustrate or highlight “New Frontiers” or new advances in the field. This is one of the most anticipated aspects of a meeting, where scientists get exposed to novel tools, new scientific approaches, and integration of the latest technology into one’s area of research.

I’d like to thank Dr. Sean Wu for sharing his memories (reflections) and future thoughts (projections), stemming from the recent conclusion of #AHA20. In science and medicine, as is with so many other fields, we continue to adapt to the changing landscape of our professional careers. Virtual meetings were new to us in 2020, but with continued innovation and trial, we will integrate this novel approach and utilize it to continue advancing our fields.

 

“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.”

hidden

AHA20 Scientific Sessions From the Perspective of a New Attendee

I was overwhelmed when I attended Scientific Sessions for the first time last year. There were thousands of participants and dozens of sessions occurring simultaneously in a very large convention center. It was challenging to try to attend all of the sessions that I was interested in. I was frequently disoriented in the large convention center. Coordinating central meeting spots with colleagues was difficult. Although AHA20 is virtual this year, seeing the vast number of sessions available covering many important topics can still be overwhelming, especially to a first-time attendee. As I mentioned in my last blog, trying to prioritize live events over OnDemand events may help keep you engaged during the conference.

For this blog, I wanted to feature the perspective of Javier E. Sierra-Pagan, a first-time attendee of Scientific Sessions. Javier is an F30-funded medical scientist (MD/PhD) trainee (who is in his 5th year in the program, 3rd year as a PhD student) at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He is currently studying mechanisms of cardiovascular development and regeneration. He is interested in Cardiology. I am fortunate to work at the same research institute as Javier and have his lab bench next to mine!

Question: What are you looking forward to at AHA Scientific Sessions this year? Any specific events that you are interested in?

Javier: I’m really looking forward to listening to good talks regarding cardiovascular development and disease. Given the current pandemic, I am particularly interested in any talks regarding SARS-CoV-2 and its implications on cardiovascular disease. As a young trainee, I’m interested in attending some of the networking events to get to know more individuals in my field of research. 

Question: How has your experience with AHA Scientific Sessions been so far?

Javier: It has been great so far. I felt a little overwhelmed at the beginning with how big this conference is, but after setting my agenda and identifying good talks to attend to, I felt more comfortable and very excited about Scientific Sessions.

Question: How are you preparing for AHA Scientific Sessions?

Javier: I’m approaching Scientific Sessions with an open mind. It is my first time attending it and I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from both basic science, as well as clinical medicine. The benefit of having such a big conference is that I can learn a little bit from so many different areas in the field of cardiology. 

Question: How has COVID-19 affected your research?

Javier: The pandemic has put a lot of stress on everybody for sure. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was fortunate to be primarily focused on writing and submitting a manuscript, which allowed me to work from home. Now we are in a different situation entering November. I am working more hours in the laboratory and trying to stay safe while also maintaining my productivity. I haven’t had any significant setbacks with regards to my thesis, but I did want to attend some conferences in the Spring that were ultimately canceled because of COVID-19.

Question: Anything else you want to add?

Javier: I look forward to attending more AHA meetings in the future (hopefully in person) and interacting with colleagues from the field. I definitely miss the scientific conversations that happen in the hallways or in the elevators when you are trying to get to a lecture room. 

Thank you, Javier, for discussing your experience with other trainees!

Remember that you can watch all of the OnDemand AHA20 content until January 4, 2021, which can help relieve the stress of cramming in as many sessions as possible into 5 days. If you are an early career investigator or trainee and would like to be featured in one of my upcoming monthly blogs, please let me know (you can message me on Twitter or email me at szprisco@umn.edu)!

 

“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.”