Small Conferences Are More Worthwhile

I ditched the hospital early last Friday and sped over to the Emory Conference Center.  There, gray-haired luminaries and neatly combed trainees filled the lobbies with their crisp suits and smart banter.  This is the scene of the Emory Practical Intervention Course, with all the pomp of a proper nerd ball.  The annual meeting attracts interventional cardiologists from across the Southeast region with live case demonstrations and simulations.  But more importantly, it’s an opportunity for old colleagues to reunite, and for young trainees like me to rub shoulders with them.  There were academic faculty and community interventionists, and they all seemed to know each other.

The EPIC meeting reminded me of another smaller gathering last November—AHA Resuscitation Science Symposium (ReSS).  Tucked away from the massive Scientific Sessions next door, ReSS served a tight circle of investigators studying survival after cardiac arrest.  As I showed off my poster on bystander AED use, I was approached by a man with particularly insightful input.  A glance at his name tag revealed him to be the author of a manuscript I had cited in my work.  Small, intimate meetings foster this type of serendipity.  It’s easy for young trainee to feel intimidated or lost in the crowd at a national meeting.  That’s why smaller conferences (such as the upcoming AHA Basic Cardiovascular Sciences (BCVS) meeting) can have a bigger payoff.


Notes from November: Medical Training is a Journey

November has been a whirlwind of angst and excitement for me.  It began with cramming for my final USMLE board exam.  After sitting for the two-day test, I flew directly to Chicago, where I attended my first AHA Scientific Sessions and presented a poster on bystander AED use at the Resuscitation Science Symposium.  Upon returning home to Atlanta, I pored over the list of fellowship interviews I had attended in the last two months and agonized over last-minute adjustments to my rank list.  Such is the life of a third-year internal medicine resident.

This Wednesday, I stumbled home after a 24-hour hospital shift and opened my email account.  That’s when I found out I had not only passed my board exam but also matched at Emory, my home institution and top fellowship choice.  In spite of my exhaustion, I was so elated that it was hard to fall asleep.

Reflecting back on the month, I’m reminded of Dr. Ivor Benjamin’s address at the AHA Presidential Session.  He waxed poetic about his circuitous journey–growing up in Guyana, traveling to the U.S., and training at several premiere academic medical centers.  He spoke about fortuitous relationships with key mentors that propelled his career as a basic science researcher.

Listening to Dr. Benjamin’s narrative was a delight and an inspiration.  His account echoed the stories of many impressive residents and fellows I met at AHA.  It was also a reminder of my own humble roots—born in Shanghai, growing up in the rural Midwest, and studying at Vanderbilt and Emory.  For each of us, medical training is long, and it is transformative.  I look forward to the next stage, and I hope to return for Scientific Sessions in 2019.  By then I will be a cardiologist in the making.