Virtual Conferences? Of Course, It’s 2020!

Virtual meetings have been essential in 2020 - but how did the entire industry connect? Instapath set out to find out how pathology connection and education is possible in the platform of a virtual conference. We talked with many participants about their experiences at this year’s College of American Pathologists (CAP) annual conference which was held virtually for the first time this year due to the pandemic.


Conferences are networking heaven. Traditionally, conference attendees find themselves with a pocketful of business cards and a room full of interesting people. How do you replicate those connection opportunities in a virtual conference? Dr. Syeda Qasim (@syeda_qasim), pathology instructor at OntarioIMG School and PathMatch21 applicant, explained, “I got the chance to attend the networking sessions in the evening and found them very interesting and a great way to meet new people and share my ideas with them. I also attended the Virtual Book Club by Dr. Paul Valenstein, in which we had been assigned to read a designated book beforehand and had a discussion on themes during our meeting. The boardrooms in the afternoons offered opportunities to “meet” wonderful faculty like Dr. Jared Gardner (@JMGardnerMD), Dr. Xiaoyin "Sara" Jiang (@Sara_Jiang) and Dr. Kimberly Allison (@DrKimAllison).” And the traditional business card became tagging one another on social media, especially Twitter. Dr. Michael Williams (@bluehatcomics85), a PGY-4 at SUNY Upstate Medical University, explained, “Even though we were not able to be there in person to see colleagues and friends, we were all able to overcome that with the ability to virtually meet up and tag each other on different social media platforms.”


This was the first CAP conference experience for Dr. Janira M. Navarro Sanchez (@janiranavarro), a PGY-3 at University of Hawaii. She told us, “Experiencing a pathology conference from the comfort of my home is something that I appreciate. Even not having to think about what to wear and focusing on the content of the conference is a great plus for me.” This year everyone had the best seat in the house, and the ability to rewind. Dr. Sara Jiang, Associate Professor at Duke Health said, “It was nice for all of us to have a “good view” of the speaker and slides and it’s great to have the sessions recorded for later viewing.” Our team had the chance to enjoy attending the Pathology Visions conference hosted by the Digital Pathology Association (DPA). Usually we are running from room to room to see all the talks we highlighted in the program, and it was certainly nice this year to watch talks on our own time and attend the Q&A sessions as we saw fit.


There’s of course the funny moments that make virtual conferences entertaining. Dr. Qasim told us, “During one of the networking sessions, the scavenger hunt, my 4-year-old daughter ran in the room and introduced herself to the rest of the attendees. It was a pleasant surprise for the attendees since that networking session was based on things most valuable to us and appropriately my daughter showed up!”


So what can we learn from virtual conferencing? “One thing that can be applied to in-person conferences could be recording of the sessions so people can access them for learning in the future,” said Dr. Qasim. Dr. Williams pondered the hybrid conference. “It would be interesting to see how a hybrid virtual/in-person conference would play out. Who would be able to attend in person? How would CAP and other organizations adjust their educational content for those who attend in person versus for those who attend virtually?” he said. Great questions. We posit there is always room for more participation, discussion, and Q&A at conferences. Why not dedicate some programming to pre-recorded talks and dedicate live sessions to Q&A or discussion?


The future of virtual meetings is unclear, though some speculate they’re here to stay. They can be more inclusive as they allow those who otherwise would not be able to attend due to travel or childcare. Dr. Donald Karcher (@DonKarcherMD), Professor and Immediate Past Chair of Pathology at George Washington University Medical Center, noted, “CAP20 Virtual provided many tools and opportunities to communicate effectively with other attendees, participate in live Q&A sessions with course faculty, and socialize virtually with friends and colleagues from around the country.”


Thank you to all of the pathologists and aspiring pathologists alike who shared their virtual conference experiences with us.


Built on the vision of better patient outcomes, Instapath was founded in 2017 by engineers and scientists to enable patients to immediately know their cancer diagnosis. Our team made it our mission to develop fast and easy digital pathology technology so diagnosis can be made in minutes instead of days. To learn more about Instapath and our technology, visit https://instapathbio.com or contact us at info@instapathbio.com.

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