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The American Society of Breast Surgeons 24th Annual Meeting: Viewpoints from a First Timer and an Old Timer

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

First Timer: Michelle Hong MD PGY3 Categorical Surgery Resident, Loma Linda University Health

Old Timer: Sharon Lum, MD, MBA, FACS Chair and Professor, Department of Surgery, Loma Linda University Health

First Timer Viewpoint

As a new member attending the American Society of Breast Surgeon's annual meeting in Boston, I was blown away by the level of innovation and inspiration on display under a packed roof. From the cutting-edge technologies to the inspiring stories of physicians turned survivors, the conference truly showcased the best of breast surgery.

One of the standout aspects of the conference was the emphasis on innovation. As a breast surgeon, it's important to stay up to date with the constantly evolving technologies and techniques. The latest research from cryoablation, artificial intelligence, to oncoplastic surgery were presented, providing a wealth of information for attendees to take back to their own practices and for trainees to be excited about their future practices.

In addition to the focus on innovation, the conference was also a source of great inspiration. Surgeons who themselves underwent treatment for the very disease they were experts of, provided a unique perspective on how our efforts to treat may impact the quality of the lives our patients. They urged us to engage in dialogue with patients about uncomfortable topics such as sexual health and medication side effects that are often glossed over.

Finally, the conference also highlighted the strong women leaders within the world of surgery. From the keynote speakers, Dr. Nathalie Johnson and Dr. Jo Buyske to the distinguished panelists, it was inspiring to see so many accomplished women who had made significant contributions to their fields including many “firsts” in their careers. They shared their experiences and expertise, providing valuable insight into the challenges and opportunities for women in medicine.

Overall, attending the American Society of Breast Surgeon's annual meeting was a memorable experience. The conference provided a unique opportunity to learn, connect, and be inspired by the latest developments in breast surgery, while also highlighting the strength and resilience of those affected by the disease. The strong women leaders present served as excellent role models for aspiring breast surgeons. 

Old Timer Viewpoint

The first time I attended the ASBrS Annual Meeting was over 15 years ago. Since that time, I have witnessed exciting year over year growth of the society and popularity of the annual meeting, until of course, the COVID-19 pandemic caused an upheaval in all professional society meetings. My first thought when I walked into the auditorium at Hynes Convention Center in Boston for this year’s ASBrS annual meeting was, “It’s back!” The giant auditorium was packed as the more than 1700 attendees set an all time record. I have always enjoyed the ASBrS meeting, because of its emphasis on providing pragmatic takeaways for the practicing breast surgeon that can be incorporated on the first day back to the clinic or operating room. The scientific rigor, however, has always remained sound, validated by cutting edge research, innovations, and presentations by the world’s leaders and future leaders in breast surgical care. Despite the large audience, the icons of breast surgical oncology walk the same halls allowing anyone to strike up a conversation with the likes of (in no particular order) Mel Silverstein, Laura Esserman, Shelley Hwang, Kelly Hunt, Suzanne Klimberg, Chip Cody, Jill Dietz, Rache Simmons, Elizabeth Mittendorf, J. Michael Dixon, Judy Boughey, Michael Alverado, and Monica Morrow, among other headliners. From the outside world, breast surgery may appear basic. It is only at the ASBrS meeting that the nuances of when and how to do the right operation in the face of a multiplicity of robust clinical trials, rapid drug design, a plethora of genomic assays, evolving technical innovations, and a patient population that leads its own advocacy movements can be debated at the level of detail that we breast surgeons hunger for. While all sessions were outstanding, the ones that stood out to me were the following:

  • Ricky Fine and Walt Taylor’s Coding and Reimbursement Symposium was standing room only and seemed to take on special importance this year with the financial crisis our health systems have faced since the beginning of COVID. Knowing that the ASBrS leadership cares not only about educating its membership about coding practices which accurately capture the work we do but also advocates for appropriate RVU valuation for our profession justifies the cost of membership alone.
  • The conference wide emphasis on subtleties of neoadjuvant endocrine therapy and axillary management of node positive disease, though not conclusive, at least reassured me that we are all struggling with similar challenges while awaiting results of RCTs.
  • Presentations of multi-institutional RCT results (intraoperative pFGS for margins and KEYNOTE-522 surgical outcomes) immediately elevated the scientific impact of the meeting.
  • Exposing our vulnerabilities with sessions on sexual functioning (Liz O’Riordan, Jennifer Gass), gender inequity (Leigh Neumayer), and getting sued (Julie Margenthaler) coupled with a call to action for surgical leadership by ASBrS President Nathalie Johnson and ABS President Jo Buyske was emotional, engaging, and inspirational.

As an old timer, one pandemic silver lining is my rekindled appreciation for attending in person meetings. At ASBrS, I met countless friends and colleagues from all phases and places in my career and made new connections. There is no substitute for human connection. It’s great to be back.

Dr. Hong and Dr. Lum have no conflicts of interest to report.

Illustration by April Brust

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