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A Unique Conference in AAO-HNSF's Storied History

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This year’s Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) was singularly unique in its one hundred twenty-four-year history! Not unlike most medical meetings and conferences scheduled for 2020 that were not canceled outright, the AAO-HNSF Annual Meeting & OTO Experience went virtual, with its three-day kickoff starting Sept. 13. I am providing a report of my personal experience with this year’s Academy Annual Meeting, both as an individual attendee and as a member of the AAO-HNSF Annual Meeting Program Committee (AMPC).

Being a member of the organizing committee, I had a unique perspective of the nimble pivot required to achieve what resulted in a great and successful conference experience. During the spring and summer, the AMPC brainstormed opportunities, looked to the real-time changes other organizations were making, and created our own organic answers to our particular meeting’s challenges. Business models were adapted and re-engineered to offer a valuable experience for conference attendees, both in education and networking.

The result for this year’s meeting was the AAO-HNSF 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting & OTO Experience — a six-week online meeting held from Sept. 13 through Oct. 25. It had both professional and technical support participation from around the world. The meeting started with the traditional elements of the opening ceremony, including messages from our leaders Dr. Duane J. Taylor — the Academy President — and Dr. James C. Denneny III — the Executive Vice President and CEO. The annual transfer of leadership to our President-Elect, Dr. Carol R. Bradford, happened virtually. In addition, this year’s opening ceremony featured keynote speaker Joel Selanikio, MD, who delivered a thought-provoking talk on the history of medicine and how the Pandemic of 1918 forced the medical community into a reckoning between science and custom. The remaining activities of the first week consisted of many live presentations that were recorded and — like the other content — will be archived on the Academy’s website for the next three years in the education platform, OTO Logic.

Plaudits must be given to Annual Meeting Program Coordinator Mark K. Wax, MD, Professor of Otolaryngology-HNS at Oregon Health Sciences University, and the staff from AAO-HNSF, all of whom who tirelessly worked to reformulate the meeting into a virtual event. What a way for Dr. Wax to end his tenure as our APMC leader! Dr. Danny C. Chelius, Jr., of Baylor Medical College/Texas Children’s Hospital, will be taking the mantle of APMC from Dr. Wax for the next four years.

Next year’s AAO-HNSF Annual Meeting & OTO Experience will be the 125th meeting and is planned to be held in Los Angeles, starting on Oct. 3, 2021. We don’t know quite yet what to expect from next year’s meeting, but we know it will be a special celebration commemorating 125 years of the AAO-HNSF. The AAO-HNSF AMPC will immediately start planning for the 2021 meeting upon the conclusions of this year’s extended virtual meeting. As always, our focus will be on providing attendees with the latest in cutting-edge and late-breaking science and research, balanced with the opportunity to network and have a peer-to-peer connection from otolaryngologists around the world.

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