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COVID Is Officially “Over.” How Will This Affect In-Person Medical Meetings?

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

The COVID-19 state of emergency was recently lifted and the globe breathed a collective sigh of relief, of sorts. A great majority of people had resumed “normal” daily activities long before this declaration and this may not feel like a major change to them. The rest are split between those who needed the declaration to ease their restrictions and those who still don’t believe we are out of the woods. None of these groups can really be blamed for their attitudes, but what does this mean on the professional level?

Annual medical scientific meetings have long been hubs for learning, collaboration, and clinical advancement. Some meetings had seen a dramatic decline in attendance, despite safety measures, during the pandemic, and others had to be canceled altogether. With the formal lifting of restrictions, those meetings can now more conveniently continue without — more like with “less” — concern for responsibility toward the attendees. For better or worse, there is no longer a requirement to wear a mask, use hand sanitizer, or show proof of vaccination to be admitted to most meetings. 

Meetings organized by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the International Anesthesia Research Society, and the PostGraduate Assembly in Anesthesiology are among several of the notable ones. These meetings bring together clinicians from several countries and provide them with a robust agenda of lectures, workshops, and events, as well as exposure to related industries. The meetings are also attended by a diaspora of trainees, leaders, executives, pharmaceutical representatives, medical engineers, and clinical innovators to showcase and discuss the latest and greatest. The benefits are several-fold and extend beyond the confines of the meeting itself and into daily clinical practice and, ultimately, into enhanced care of patients. 

The mere fact that thousands of anesthesiologists and other clinicians are gathered under the same roof lends itself into inevitable conversations about clinical care, what is working, and what is not working. Add to that the presence of researchers and industry representatives and it becomes hard to imagine anything less than practice-changing initiatives coming out of these conversations and collaborations. One particular aspect of immediate importance to clinicians across the board is patient-centered interventions and outcomes. This is becoming more of a regular theme at many of these meetings, and rightfully so. Doximity readers are no strangers to the discussion. As intuitive as the topic may seem, we have only recently begun to actively discuss it vis-à-vis clinical care, innovation, and research.

All in all, it is difficult not to encourage ourselves and our colleagues to attend these meetings, of course while maintaining healthy practices. It is also imperative that support for clinicians to attend these meetings be increased, especially for those who have ideas and work to share. Staffing shortage aside, it would be relevant to increase time allotted for clinicians active in this space to attend, participate, and bring back learning points from these meetings. This would provide a return on investment that extends far beyond the individuals and into the health system as a whole. Now that COVID is "over," more clinicians may feel comfortable enough to attend these meetings and contribute to the discussion.

What do you think will change, if anything, at in-person meetings? Share in the comments.

Dr. Saasouh completed an anesthesiology residency at the American University of Beirut (Lebanon), a research fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic Department of Outcomes Research (Ohio), where he was chief research fellow, received training in neuroanesthesiology at the Cleveland Clinic (Ohio), and completed an anesthesiology residency at the Detroit Medical Center (DMC-Michigan). He is currently a Board-certified Anesthesiologist and a Director of Research. Dr. Saasouh is dedicated to patient-centered care. Readers interested in getting involved in reshaping patient-centered care are invited to join the effort here. Dr. Saasouh was a 2019–2020 Doximity Conference Fellow and is a 2022–2023 Doximity Op-Med Fellow and a 2023 Doximity Digital Health Fellow.

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