For those attending from overseas, the ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting offers an invaluable opportunity to connect with a global community of rheumatology professionals and thought leaders from around the world.
ACR Daily News asked representatives from four of the world’s largest international rheumatology societies — Asia Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology (APLAR), Pan-American League of Associations for Rheumatology (PANLAR), African League of Associations for Rheumatology (AFLAR), and European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) — to share their thoughts on the importance and the benefits of international rheumatology professionals attending the ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting.
- APLAR: Peter Brooks, MD, FRACP, Honorary Professor at the Centre for Health Policy, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne in Australia.
- AFLAR: Olufemi Adelowo, MD, FRCP, MACR, Professor of Medicine and Consultant Rheumatologist at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital and Lagos University Teaching Hospital in Nigeria, and current AFLAR President.
- PANLAR: Mario H. Cardiel, MD, MSc, FACR, specialist and principal investigator at the Centro de Investigación Clínica de Morelia SC in México, and the next President of the PANLAR meeting scientific committee.
- EULAR: Johannes W.J. Bijlsma, MD, PhD, Professor and Head of the Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology at University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, and current EULAR President.
What is your top reason for attending the ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting?
Dr. Brooks (APLAR): It’s a great opportunity to catch up with international colleagues, hear the latest advances and talk with like-minded folks about the challenges facing rheumatology and rheumatologists around the world.
Dr. Adelowo (AFLAR): My main reason for attending the Annual Meeting is to update my knowledge on recent findings in various rheumatic conditions. Another reason is to network with other rheumatologists and explore opportunities for collaborations.
Dr. Cardiel (PANLAR): Attending the Annual Meeting is the best way to learn about the latest advances and research findings in rheumatology. It’s a chance for people from many countries to get together to share useful clinical information and practical advice in a very stimulating environment. Other important activities, such as networking and interacting with collegues and friends, are important reasons to be there.
Dr. Bijlsma (EULAR): There are two major rheumatology meetings each year that I think are very important to attend—EULAR in Europe in the spring and ACR in the U.S. in the fall. Both provide updates on all the relevant research and offer great education in the field of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. The interaction with international colleagues and the opportunity to learn from each other makes it especially worthwhile.
Why would attending the Annual Meeting be beneficial and valuable to your members?
Dr. Brooks (APLAR): You might find out that your particular job and the challenges you’re facing are not really all that bad by learning how other rheumatologists cope with similar problems to the ones you might be experiencing. Learning about what to do, and sometimes what not to do, to face a particular issue is something you can take back to your practice, clinic, or institution.
Dr. Adelowo (AFLAR): Particularly for my trainees and younger colleagues, information from the Annual Meeting can help them improve their practice skills and possibly give them ideas for focusing on new research interests.
Dr. Cardiel (PANLAR): The ACR Annual Meeting has something special for everyone. It does not matter if you are a practicing rheumatologist, an academician, a mentor, a researcher, an allied professional, or anyone who keeps curiosity as an important part of their life. You can benefit from multiple sessions in terms of new knowledge and have direct interaction with experts in the field.
What should first-time attendees expect when they come to the meeting?
Dr. Adelowo (AFLAR): The first major thing I would recommend that new attendees should do is study the map of the meeting venue and understand how to navigate the various session rooms. Identify the sessions of interest to you on each day of the meeting and prioritize which sessions you would most like to attend.
Dr. Cardiel (PANLAR): You will find a universe of sessions, activities, posters, and people. I think identifying a good selection of sessions and posters on a daily basis is very important. Do not be anxious if two or more sessions are presented at the same time, as some of them can be viewed later at home on your computer (using ACR Beyond).
Dr. Bijlsma (EULAR): When I first attended the ACR meeting in 1983, I was thrilled to see and listen to all the great names I knew from the literature. At that time the size of the ACR meeting was significantly smaller than it is now, so it’s really important to plan in advance to make sure you find the sessions and speakers you’re most interested in.
Which sessions stand out to you as ones that would benefit international attendees the most?
Dr. Brooks (APLAR): The ACR/AHP combined sessions cover a broad range of clinical practice and basic science topics of interest to physicians and allied rheumatology health professionals. The many Workshops are always popular because they offer opportunities for hands-on learning and interaction with some of the top experts in their fields. Also, be sure to attend some of the Networking Sessions at the Annual Meeting — they are always a good way to unwind, meet new people and catch up with old friends.
Dr. Adelowo (AFLAR): I would suggest that they register early for the Meet the Professor sessions they would like to attend. These clinical and interactive sessions are of immense value and offer opportunities for feedback and sharing experiences. The pre-conference sessions, industry-sponsored symposia, and abstract poster tours are also of great value. One specific session I would encourage everyone to attend is this year’s Great Debate, which will look at current guidelines for SLE and recommendations regarding the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ)
Dr. Cardiel (PANLAR): My recommendation on “must attend” sessions always include the Year in Review sessions, which offer a nice way to hear clinicians and basic scientists summarize some of the most important findings over the past year. The Latin American Study Group session provides a chance for professional interaction, academic exchange and collaboration with colleagues and friends who share interests in a very special part of the world. Also, the daily Plenary Sessions are a great way to take the pulse on advances in different fields.
Dr. Bijlsma (EULAR): I would encourage everyone to attend the Opening Lecture and Awards: Resilience: Facing a Health Crisis Head On and the joint session with AFLAR: Out of Africa: Of Rheumatic Diseases: Pattern, Genetics & Advocacy.
What advice do you have for your members for getting the most out of attending the Annual Meeting?
Dr. Brooks (APLAR): Get to sessions early because some of them can fill up very quickly, pick the ones where you have little content knowledge, and, finally, don’t be afraid of asking questions. And be sure to use the Annual Meeting app (available in the fall) while you’re in Chicago to make sure you get the latest meeting updates and for help getting around the meeting and the city.
Dr. Cardiel (PANLAR): The best advice that I can give is to have a full recognition and practice of the word “planning.” Do not underestimate the importance of the time spent in reviewing the program and selecting the sessions according to your personal interests. And be sure to take a look at sessions for allied professionals—I have benefited from many excellent lectures from my colleagues in other fields over the years.
Dr. Bijlsma (EULAR): Study the program well in advance and make your choices what to attend, but don’t forget the poster sessions—they are a great chance to learn about all of the great basic and clinical research being done. And go to some sessions you hadn’t planned on or never heard of and get surprised.