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Navigating the Annual Meeting

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The American Academy of Ophthalmology holds one of the largest annual medical meetings in the world. There are subspecialty day activities, more than 2,000 hours of scientific programs, hundreds of exhibitors, and advocacy and business courses offered by the AAOE. For a young ophthalmologist, this can sometimes be overwhelming. It is easy to go to the Annual Meeting, then realize after the fact that you missed something important. So, in an attempt to guide you through this meeting, the following recommendations are provided with the young ophthalmologist in mind.

The key to a successful Annual Meeting is planning your trip prior to arriving, as once you get there, the myriad of free seminars, dinners, and exhibit hall activities can distract you from your preferred program activities.

Start by bracketing your trip based on your flight arrival and departure times. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to your hotel at the beginning of the meeting, and head to the airport well in advance to check in for your departing flight.

Next, you should determine your primary goal for the meeting. For some, this may be searching for a new job. If this is the case, make sure to sign up for and attend the job fair. Bring plenty of CVs and business cards, and dress for success. For others, there may be a particular educational or practice management topic of interest. To aid you in the selection of classes, the YO Committee has endorsed several courses that we feel are most helpful for the young ophthalmologist (see the YO Courses article in this newsletter). Still others may be opening a new practice or expanding your current practice’s capacity, or you may need to purchase equipment or supplies. In all likelihood, there will be a combination of all these activities in your meeting plans.

I then suggest that you plan your time during the meeting itself. Be sure to take into account the approximate travel time from your hotel to your meeting locations. Meeting activities that have specific start times should have the greatest priority. And be sure to give yourself plenty of extra time between events and courses — you never know when you will run into a former faculty member or resident. Speaking of which, you need to pay attention to the course locations when registering. Due to the large size of the meeting, it is not uncommon to have portions of the conference in nearby hotels or buildings. Additionally, the exhibit hall is enormous and you could easily spend your entire time in this section.

I also suggest that you plan some time to view the exhibit hall. Fortunately, this can be done typically between some of your other meeting activities. Just make sure you pack a snack in your bag. It is easy to get so involved in all the excitement that your forget to eat. This can result in poor knowledge retention at courses, and severe fatigue by the end of the day.

Lastly, remember that the Annual Meeting is akin to a marathon — proper preparation and pace is a recipe for success! Have a safe journey and see you in New Orleans!

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About the author: Aaron M. Miller, MD, is a member of the Young Ophthalmologist Committee. He is a pediatric ophthalmologist with Houston Eye Associates in Tomball, Texas.