When the COVID-19 pandemic first struck in early spring, and it became clear that bringing 15,000 people together in convention center wouldn’t work, the Education Committee and ACR leadership immediately starting planning a revamped ACR Convergence 2020.
The ACR had one advantage: Time. And ACR Convergence organizers used the months leading up to the annual meeting to reimagine a full program and find the right technology to create a virtual meeting that met the needs of the worldwide rheumatology community.
Swamy Venuturupalli, MD, Chair of the ACR Education Committee, acknowledges that ACR Convergence 2020 is a new world—“the mother of all pilots,” he said—but thanks to the unrelenting dedication of the ACR organizers, staff, and volunteers, the annual meeting will remain the premier rheumatology education event.
“The essence of the ACR Convergence meeting is to provide a space for all of rheumatology globally to meet. But what does this mean in a virtual world? We really spent a fair amount of time thinking about that question,” Dr. Venuturupalli said.
Those efforts led to a meeting that meets the committee’s charge to offer formal and informal educational opportunities. When they enter the ACR Convergence 2020 platform, attendees will not just watch sessions, but interact with them through live question-and-answer periods. Attendees can also use the platform to participate in online discussions with others sharing similar interests, schedule one-on-one conversations and small group video chats with other participants, as well as send direct messages to other attendees through the meeting platform.
After a successful pilot at the 2019 annual meeting, expanded Community Hubs will provide outstanding niche opportunities for networking with colleagues who have similar interests. Dr. Venuturupalli said that the Community Hubs will foster connections and interaction alongside seeing and hearing from the experts presenting the latest research in many specific disciplines. The hubs—scheduled from 1 – 3 p.m. and 6 – 8 p.m. EST during the meeting—will also host the popular Study Groups.
“Let’s say you’re interested in scleroderma or rheumatoid arthritis; by participating the disease-specific Community Hub, you will interact with peers who share your interests through an interactive program curated by experts in the field. You will have opportunities to interact with speakers and research presenters from the main program.”
The complete list of Community Hubs and the schedule for each hub will be available on the virtual meeting platform and the online planner.
ACR Convergence 2020 will have more than 1,700 posters on display. Most presenters will have a short video or audio recording about their poster, as well. Presenters will be available during Poster Hall virtual sessions from 9 – 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 6, through Monday, Nov. 9.
“Posters are the heart and pulse of the meeting because that’s the new research that moves our field forward. It’s exciting to see all the work done by our peers from across the world and always a special part of the annual meeting,” Dr. Venuturupalli said.