Get the Most Out of the Annual Meeting

Kevin D. Accola, MD asks a question during the 2017 Annual Meeting.

Whether it’s your first time attending the STS Annual Meeting or your 20th, making the most of your time in Fort Lauderdale will require planning and a good dose of flexibility. Three veteran meeting attendees share their best advice to help you maximize your experience.

Download the App
“Planning your schedule at the meeting can be a challenge,” said Robbin G. Cohen, MD, MMM, Associate Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “It’s true that you have to juggle in order to see the things that interest you, and you can’t always attend everything you want to.”

If you haven’t already, download the STS Meetings app, available at, to help you stay on schedule. You can save sessions and presentations to your personal itinerary, then set alerts so that you’re reminded when they’re about to begin. You also can use the app to read scientific abstracts and take notes during presentations.

Get a Well-Rounded Experience
While many Annual Meeting sessions offer in-depth science, technology, and hands-on learning, others address the practice management side of cardiothoracic surgery. These sessions include the Practice Management Summit (Sunday), Diversity and Inclusion in Cardiothoracic Surgery: What’s In It for Me? (Monday), and The Importance of Physician Documentation in Reimbursement (Monday).

Kevin D. Accola, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Cardiovascular Surgeons PA in Orlando, encourages his colleagues to attend the STS Key Contacts session on Monday and the Health Policy Forum on Tuesday so that they are prepared to advocate for the specialty.

“It’s essential that cardiothoracic surgeons and others in our field become knowledgeable about changes in our health care system, as they impact our daily practice,” he said.

Dr. Accola also strongly encourages attendees to participate during sessions, whether it’s during the Q&A portion of a session or via polling software available in select sessions. “The discussion opportunities are very informal and provide ample opportunity for further interaction and exchange of new ideas,” he said.

Visit the Exhibit Hall
In addition to offering insightful information about Annual Meeting sessions, this issue of the STS Meeting Bulletin offers a map of the Exhibit Hall and descriptions about what companies are offering at their booths.

“I frequently find a new instrument or idea that I hadn’t thought of,” said Dr. Cohen. “Visiting the Exhibit Hall also helps you establish relationships with salespeople and their managers who might be good resources in the future.”

The Society has a booth in the Exhibit Hall (#807) where attendees can learn about everything STS, such as membership, The Annals of Thoracic Surgery, STS-PAC, and the STS National Database.

Data managers and surgeons participating in the STS National Database should take time to visit the STS Regional Data Managers booth (#1112). “It’s a great way to find out what’s going on around the country and how to become more involved with local efforts,” said Syma Prince, RN, BSN, AACC, Director of Cardiovascular Outcomes at HCA North Texas in Dallas. “These regional initiatives are where some of the strongest networks are built.”

Build Your Network
Networking is an essential component of the Annual Meeting experience.

“People I’ve met at the Annual Meeting have remained mentors throughout my career and become close friends,” Dr. Accola said.

Dr. Cohen agreed. “I would advise new and young members to not be shy about attending social events and approaching even the most famous members in our field,” he said. “I think STS is a really inclusive organization that is welcoming of young talent.”

One of the highlights of the meeting is the President’s Reception, which will be held on Sunday evening at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa. The event allows attendees to connect with leaders in cardiothoracic surgery in a picturesque, informal setting. It’s not too late to purchase a ticket; you can do so at Registration on the first floor.

On the other evenings, industry-sponsored satellite activities feature expert talks and oftentimes a free meal.

“Many surgeons have been invited to industry dinners in advance by their local reps,” Dr. Cohen said. “These can be another good way to learn about new technology in development.”

Recharge Your Batteries
Relaxing in your hotel room with room service can be a refreshing option after days filled with learning and socializing.

“The meeting can be a lot to take in. There’s nothing wrong with getting in some downtime so that you’re ready to go tomorrow,” Prince advised.