IDWeek is the seminal event for Infectious Diseases (ID) occurring annually in October. During this week-long event, current and future ID specialists from all over the world converge to share their latest research, cases, experiences, and stories of the past year. This event fosters a multinational, interdisciplinary, collaborative approach and the continued dissemination of scientific and social knowledge across the world. Perhaps more importantly, this event gives the opportunity for old friends, colleagues, and mentors/mentees to reunite and for new connections to be made.
This year, as a third year Internal Medicine/Pediatrics resident, I had the privilege to attend my first IDWeek in Washington D.C. and presented two scientific posters to the ID community. Let me tell you, for all the hype there was beforehand, it did not disappoint. From day one, attendees could sense an infectious air of inclusivity, knowledge, and empowerment throughout the convention center. The entire community embraced all of us first-timers and support for all of us from our home institution and well beyond was unparalleled.
The knowledge and science found at ID Week was beyond anything I had imagined. Multiple lectures on challenging cases in all areas of ID as well as novel approaches and research to clinical conundrums dotted the program. There were updates on the Ebola outbreak, flanked by updates in the world of prosthetic joint infections, HIV, diarrheal illnesses, excited discussions about the new community-acquired pneumonia guidelines — the list goes on and on. Thousands of amazing posters were presented by trainees and faculty, across multiple professions, from all reaches of the world, providing insight and innovation into every conceivable area of ID and then some.
The convergence of a major scientific community on the capital of the United States was also not lost amidst the scientific rigor of the conference. From lectures on healthcare and career disparities in our field to infectious diseases amongst refugees (and how international travelers carry more risk for disease spread and transmission than refugees), to the importance of vaccination, particularly as we see resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases, IDWeek made sure to rise as a singular voice against discrimination, prejudice, and inequality. With an ever-present voice in the Twitterverse, ID is taking up the mantle for change within the medical community.
Vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases (particularly measles) have been making recent headlines, and IDWeek took up the cause without hesitation. The NIH director Dr. Francis Collins and TIME Magazine Person of the Year and computational genetics expert Dr. Pardis Sabeti opened up the meeting with a fantastic plenary on outbreaks and genomics. For anyone who thinks ID docs don’t know how to have fun, think again! Social media from that day was flooded with video clips and images of Dr. Collins (wearing a “Vaccines cause Adults” t-shirt) and Dr. Sabeti rocking out with Dr. Collins’ band the Affordable Rock & Roll Act. Later in the week, during a plenary on vaccine hesitancy, ID specialists flooded social media with a #WhyIVaccinate Twitterstorm. A “Plague Doctor” visited IDWeek to call attention to recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Almost 5,000 unique tweets about vaccination posted during IDWeek sent a loud and clear message that vaccines work, period.
I left IDWeek with a newfound sense of pride in the field of medicine that I plan to pursue and that has embraced me from day one. From cutting edge research into antimicrobial resistance to the fight against healthcare and career disparities, IDWeek has left this young physician in training with a stronger sense of purpose and affirmed that I have chosen the right career. IDWeek has left me eager to see what we as an ID community can bring to the table to change not only ID but also the world. I also left IDWeek with something I never thought I would have: a Twitter account (@JoeWangDO)! In the days since IDWeek, #IDTwitter has not disappointed and is something I look forward to checking up on every day. You could say I caught the “Twitter bug” at #IDWeek2019.
IDWeek is an amazing opportunity to meet your fellow ID enthusiasts and to connect with those across the nation and across the world. If you’re interested at all in ID, meet me in 2020 in Philly! From the way it looks, it’s going to be a great time!
Note: IDWeek is the joint annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), the HIV Medical Association (HIVMA), and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS).
Illustration by Jennifer Bogartz