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An Approach to Large, Academic Conferences for Medical Students

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

Every year you scroll through your phone and see pictures of your friends in dermatology sharing pictures from the annual AAD meeting. There are some posts of large lecture halls, poster presentations, and maze-like exhibit halls. This year, you’re attending, but you don’t even know where to begin. We hope this guide helps medical students plan to make the most of this unique experience! 

The annual American Academy of Dermatology meeting is the largest gathering of dermatologists in the United States each year. There are thousands of people, from attendings to medical students and industry representatives. There are so many sessions that many of them overlap and unfortunately, you can only be in one place at a time. So here are a few tips to manage your time. This is written from experience of attending AAD meetings, but the advice can be generalized to other specialty annual conferences which medical students may be attending. 

  1. Make sure to register before the early deadline for a special discount! Medical students already have a discounted rate compared to other members, but every cent counts. 
  2. The website will have a schedule of sessions per day including timings, speakers, and a summary of the objectives. Use this to guide which topic areas interest you and craft your own schedule for which talks you will attend at which time. Pro tip: these large convention centers can get tricky to navigate, so note down the room numbers of the sessions you are attending.
  3. Use the mobile app! For the week of the conference, there is an easy-to-use mobile app available to keep track of updates, sessions, and locations. This is a very handy tool for using during your time and it also includes session handouts which speakers often attach. 
  4. Find other students and residents to connect with and don’t hesitate to reach out! Conferences are the best place for meeting people and most people will be excited to talk to new faces. This can lead to cross-country friendships and collaborations, which is one of the greatest aspects of our ever-connected community. Take advantage of being in the same room as many brilliant minds and don’t be shy to get to know colleagues!
  5. Practical pearls: There is a lot of walking involved, so consider comfort over fashion when it comes to footwear. Rooms tend to be chilly, regardless of outside temperature, so bringing a jacket would be useful. There may not be a lot of food options inside the convention center, especially if you have dietary preferences, so bringing some snacks in your bag is always a good idea. 

There are so many things to do at large conferences, including exploring the new city you’ve traveled to. The only parting advice for any medical student is – make the most of the time you have there! It will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

Illustration by April Brust

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