This past weekend I attended my very first American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) annual meeting in Washington DC and it was such a wonderful event! I had never been to a dermatology conference before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. The first day I walked into the convention center I felt quite overwhelmed to be honest; the space was so large and there were so many sessions and demos and workshops going on at the same time. But I found my groove and ended up learning a ton, bonded with my coresidents, and got a nice hefty haul of skincare samples to take home too.
Here are a few tips for new conference-goers to make the most out their time at a national meeting in any field.
The AAD put its schedule entirely online in a special AAD app that allows you to search sessions by time/date and speaker, as well as topic. Because there are so many things going on at the same time, I suggest looking at the schedule ahead of time and bookmarking a few workshops or lectures that you are very interested in. This way you can plan out the approximate outline of your (very busy) day. Another thing is figuring out which sessions to go to. I didn’t do this ahead of time, but a friend of my co-resident’s told me that every year there are some “classic” talks that people go to that are awesome, such as a particular vasculitis lecture. Ask around and see if there are great talks that people have heard before that have great reputations.
Another way to choose activities is to filter the schedule by speaker and go to the talk of someone you want to collaborate with, meet, or discuss research opportunities with. If you’ve been admiring someone’s research and hope to meet them as a potential mentor, attend their lecture or workshop and then try to meet them afterwards. That brings me to my next tip.
Networking can be tiring but doing it in small doses is much more manageable (at least for me). I have been following the research of Dr. Eleni Linos from UCSF for a while now, and I have been really blown away by how she is using social media as a tool for public health education in dermatology. She published an interesting piece in the Lancet on Twitter mentions of tanning beds, and more recently, another study looking at how Google Ads can be strategically placed in search result pages of people looking for “indoor tanning” to lead them to the CDC’s “The Burning Truth” campaign. Most of you know that the intersection of medicine and social media and media in general is a huge interest of mine, so I really wanted to meet with Dr. Linos to learn more about her work! I emailed her a week before the meeting and then we met up for an hour to discuss potential projects. It was so wonderful to meet a faculty member and potential mentor who was as excited as I am about using social media for medicine, and I’m thankful that I was able to meet her at the AAD. So my advice for you is to reach out to faculty members or other individuals whom you want to meet at the conference and see if there is any time to connect. It never hurts to try!
I also saw several of my Stanford Medical School classmates I haven’t seen in over a year, including my medical school roommate! It’s a great conference to run into old friends/colleagues and make new ones.
Expo and Samples
This may be unique to AAD and dermatology, but I was really surprised by the number of samples we got in the exhibit hall! The hall was about as large as a football field and it was FILLED with vendor booths all giving away food, free samples, or both. It was like trick-or-treating for dermatologists. Here is a picture of my haul (for those on Snapchat, I went over a few of my most highly anticipated products on teawithMD):
The only thing I have to say about the haul is to try to pick up the large products at the end, because otherwise, your shoulders and back will be killing you!
On a separate note, I can’t wait to try and review some of these products for you. I’m particularly excited about the Clinique Cleansing Brush (you may know that I’ve been obsessed with the Clarisonic Mia 2 — reviewed here), the La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin dry touch sunscreen with SPF 60, and the Elta MD sunscreen (usually only available online or at your dermatologist’s offices).
Some of the items I mentioned:
Lastly, have fun! Enjoy being in another city and learning something new everyday. Do you have any tips for making the most out of academic conferences?