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Reflecting On a Successful Virtual AIBD 2020 Conference

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The Virtual Advances in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (AIBD) 2020 Conference was one of our most successful to date. Only a few months ago, it seemed in jeopardy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As one of the co-Chairs of AIBD, along with Drs. Millie Long and Stephen Hanauer, we have been meeting weekly with our conference coordinator Lara Gray (Imedex) since last January 2020. Each year, the educational quality of AIBD has been high and continues to improve. Our health care providers flock to Florida each December for the learning, interaction, and camaraderie of AIBD. When we decided to transition to a virtual conference, we were fearful that we would lose the quality of education and engagement. 

Now that AIBD 2020 has ended, we sigh relief at a successful conference and also recognize that virtual conferencing and education is here to stay. Although we hope the COVID-19 vaccine will allow us to return to in-person conferences soon, we have also realized the power of technology to innovate educational experiences. We had an attendance at AIBD 2020 that equaled and may have exceeded our highest in-person attendance, and we also reached a broader audience. There was a global attendance that we have not realized in the past, including attendees from Asia Pacific, Middle East, Europe, Latin America, and Canada. Additionally, the virtual nature of the conference was convenient for health care providers, who were able to “come and go” from sessions, watch all of the sessions at a later time, and enjoy the meeting at their own pace and time. 

There were several unique aspects of AIBD 2020 that included: the patient voice, inclusions of multiple disciplines, young faculty as Ambassadors, and acknowledgement of colleagues through the Sherman Prize. As co-chairs, we feel that the patient should be at the center of our educational experience. In the past, we had not included the patient, but, this year at AIBD 2020, we included patients on our panels. Having patients included on our panels was met enthusiastically and was extremely successful. The patient voice grounded our discussions in a “real world” management approach that had been previously lacking.  The success of the patient inclusion was so significant that we are planning to continue and expand the patient involvement in future AIBD meetings. Similarly, we were honored to include the Crohn’s and Colitis Young Adults Network (CCYAN) to AIBD as many IBD patients are young at diagnosis. CCYAN is an international group of IBD patients who provided a voice and context to the adolescent patient, to important issues of transition of care from pediatrics to adults, and perspectives of IBD management to this young adult population. The involvement of these wonderful young adult patients was highly impactful and we look forward to partnering for years to come. 

Another unique aspect to AIBD is the multidisciplinary faculty. We included colorectal surgeons, gastroenterologists, pediatric gastroenterologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, dietitians, nurses, advanced practice providers (APPs), and so many more. These multidisciplinary care approaches to IBD were well-received and informative. Our live panels involved more than one discipline and spurred practical discussions that were unique and special. Also, this was the third year that we included an AIBD Ambassador program. These are junior faculty in IBD centers that include gastroenterologists, APPs, RNs, surgeons, pediatricians, and many more. These Ambassadors presented important hot topics in research this year as well as being active in social media. We plan to continue and expand the Ambassador program next year and beyond. Finally, we are honored that the Sherman Prize awardees are acknowledged at AIBD. We thank the Sherman family for their generous prize that honors our top IBD physicians. This year, we had three spectacular physicians who were recognized during AIBD 2020: Jessica Allegretti, MD, Gary Wu, MD, and David Rubin, MD. We congratulate these dedicated, outstanding IBD clinicians and researchers. 

The comprehensive nature of AIBD is too vast to “call out” all of the hot topics. However, based on feedback we have received and themes that were recognized, I will provide a few. A particularly well-received session is one in which we invited the editors for each of the major gastroenterology journals from 2020. They summarized the top articles from 2020 in IBD and provided key take-home points. It was a tremendous session! Each editor eloquently reviewed important IBD papers and provided important points that the attendees could take back to their practices after the meeting. Another theme was the surgery-gastroenterology interface and multidisciplinary care. We had several case-based sessions that presented real world cases for discussion by panels. Each case was summarized by a moderator and ended with practical tips for IBD management. 

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the co-chairs decided to add a full session at AIBD 2020. This was extremely well-attended and coincided with the day the COVID-19 vaccine was approved. We had an informative discussion about IBD and COVID-19. The discussion included a patient and the information was invaluable. 

Finally, the Rick MacDermott lecture (named after one of the founders of the AIBD meeting) was on the Role of Virtual Reality to Manage Chronic Diseases and Symptoms. This was a cutting-edge lecture by Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS, that was extremely well received. His presentation gave us a glimpse into the future of new technology as a “tool” to manage diseases in a way that we could have never realized.

We thank the attendees, faculty, and conference coordinators for a successful Virtual AIBD 2020 Conference and we look forward to a great (hopefully in person) AIBD 2021!

Miguel Regueiro, MD, Chair of the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition at Cleveland Clinic, and Co-Chair of AIBD. Find him at @MRegueiroMD.

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