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SMFM Themes: Health Disparities, Tech, and Improving Patient Outcomes

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I just came back from the 40th annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) and wanted to share my takes with the readers.

The Gaylord Texan Convention Center in Gravepine, Texas, was easy to reach from the Dallas International Airport. It is a huge new complex entirely dedicated to conferences. Wonderful and enormous rooms for the actual conference; impressive open spaces between the hotel rooms and the conference center, nice restaurant, gym, and spa center. It felt like a mini-city dedicated to the conference.

The postgraduate courses started the meeting on Monday, as usual at the SMFM, and they went on until Wednesday afternoon. Among the postgraduate courses, I was impressed by the one on ultrasound during labor, organized by Dr. Berghella (Jefferson University, PA, USA) with international speakers such as Dr. Ghi and Dr. Bellussi from Italy. With the assistance of a real simulator in the room, they explained with clarity how ultrasound can be implemented in the clinical practice to help in the difficult decision during labor, and everybody was able to try it assisted by patient instructors in the room.

Wednesday afternoon was also dedicated to the small forums, such as the useful Resident Meeting and the SMFM Thrive, with useful take-home messages ready to be used as soon as you are back home. In addition, the forums about fetal surgery and placenta accreta spectrum were the most innovative and with visionary views: fetal surgery is being increasingly used in the U.S. with improving outcomes, and for placenta accreta spectrum disorders, new studies are pushing towards more conservative management.

On Thursday, the scientific sessions started with the oral plenaries in the mornings, the concurrent oral sessions in the afternoon, and the posters in between them. The oral plenary sessions were dominated by the big clinical trial from UK of pessary use for prevention of preterm birth on twins, reporting a negative result. Other oral sessions were dedicated to the use of new technology such as mobile phone-based apps to improve breastfeeding rate and postpartum vigilance.

Another big topic in the oral sessions was the racial, health literacy disparities among patients regarding treatment received, and maternal-fetal outcomes. In particular I was impressed by an oral presentation from France about the conservative management of placenta accreta, far from the current management in U.S.

The posters were distributed on three days and they were around 1,000. The overall quality of the poster was elevated, they came from all the world: Korea, Israel, France, Sweden, Italy, Africa, and more.

I was impressed, in particular, by a large retrospective study from the University of Washington. The study implied pregnant women with high blood pressure after 20 weeks of gestation are more likely to develop hypertensive disorders of pregnancy during their delivery hospitalization. 

This year the general feeling was a dedication to the new hot technologies, such as apps for our smartphones and the attention to delicate topics such as racial disparities. The usual attention to what is going on in Europe confirmed the will of the Society to push its boundaries in the effort of becoming more global. I am happy to have attended and I can’t wait for the next SMFM meeting in 2021 in Las Vegas!

Giovanni Sisti completed his medical school and his first ob/gyn residency in Italy. He is currently working as PGY-3 obgyn resident at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, in New York. He has an extensive academic international background with more than 80 publications, 600 citations, and a book chapter. He is editor of several medical journals and is currently very active in international collaboration studies.

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