Remembering My First SMFM: The Man On My Textbook Wanted To Hear About My Poster

This year marked the 40th anniversary of the SMFM Annual Meeting. More than 2,700 maternal-fetal medicine subspecialists, MFM fellows, residents, medical students, scientists, and other stakeholders in the field of high-risk pregnancy gathered in Grapevine, Texas. SMFM hosted three days of postgraduate courses, 20 scientific forums, 1,226 abstracts presentations, and countless hours of connecting with old friends and new ones.

The 40th anniversary was celebrated at an event on February 6, 2020, “There’s Something about SMFM,” which included the release of a new documentary video. From the video, we learned that the earliest Annual Meeting gatherings were held in a small ballroom in San Antonio, Texas and run out of a suitcase. It’s hard to image this now, given the incredible growth of the meeting since those early days.

The video features giants in the field, including Drs. Edward Quilligan, Bob Sokol, Dick Paul, Washington Hill, and others. Dr. Mary D’Alton describes her first meetings, “Dr. Miller and his wife, Pat, were manning the registration booth and I remember how very nice Pat Miller was to me when I had such nerves about my first poster and oral presentation.” She goes on to say that she, “remembers the personal touches of so many people then. Dick Paul and his wife, Alta, Dr. John Queenan and his wife, Carrie; we got to know the spouses because they were really manning the booths at that time.” 

Dr. Tom Garite adds, “When I ran the meeting, I had my secretary, my mother-in-law, my wife, and everybody I could get ahold of to help me organize it, to take the registration money, to organize the abstracts that were submitted. We had to create our own database.”

I remember my first SMFM Annual Meeting. I was so nervous to present my first poster and was amazed to discover what an incredible sense of community existed, and it was these giants in our field that paved the way. That was the first time I met Dr. Garite. He came up to my poster and asked me to tell him about my science — I couldn’t believe that the man I knew from the cover of my textbook wanted to hear about my poster. And despite how much we have grown, the Annual Meeting has retained that same warm feel.

I’m thankful that as the SMFM Annual Meeting evolved, those who came before me standardized our systems, so we now have an Annual Program Manual put together by the Program Task Force and a new abstract system for a more user-friendly experience. We also have SMFM staff support to assist with the logistics of the Annual Meeting, rather than relying on spouses and secretaries to help!

With all of the systems and staff assistance in place, we still rely on the dedicated SMFM membership to make the Annual Meeting a success. From abstract submitters, to reviewers and judges, moderators, course directors and faculty, and meeting attendees — we rely on SMFM volunteers to make it all happen.

The first step in making the 2021 Annual Meeting a success is to recruit additional abstract reviewers. With so many top-notch submissions, we need additional volunteers to help the Program Committee review them. I encourage SMFM members to apply to review abstracts for the 2021 meeting. The application is open until March 31, 2020.  I hope to see you in Las Vegas on January 25-30, 2021 for what is sure to be another incredible Annual Meeting. 

Alison G. Cahill, MD, MSCI is a Professor of Women’s Health in Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Texas at Austin, Dell Medical School. She was also a SMFM 2020 Annual Meeting Program Chair.

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