The 2014 Vascular Annual Meeting will be the last year of service for Dr. Ronald Fairman, who has served 3 years as program chair, shaping the educational program at the meeting. Reflecting upon his years with the Program Committee, Dr. Fairman says, “I have relished these experiences. I have been able to help support the academic profile and mentorship of many young vascular surgeons and to shape the strategic mission of the Society – what could be more gratifying?”
What principles guided your service as program chair?
During my tenure, I focused on creating a well-balanced program relevant to both academic and community practice members; a rigorous and fair abstract selection process; establishing collaborative educational programs with the Society for Thoracic Surgery in areas of overlapping interest; addressing conflict of interest issues and off-label meeting presentations outside a physician sponsored IDE; and increasing international attendance and participation.
It is important for the program chair to sift through recurring educational themes from the program evaluations. The membership has desired more clinically relevant “how to do it” sessions and we have incorporated this into the annual meeting; the highly successful videos presented at each plenary session are an example of this process.
What do you look for when you review abstracts?
The abstract selection process needs to be transparent, consistent, and fair. Every member of the Program Committee has areas of particular expertise. As such, we make a real effort to assign abstract reviews to appropriate committee members based on the subject matter. Every abstract is graded by at least seven committee members and committee members are encouraged to review all the abstracts whether they are responsible for grading them or not.
The committee members meet in Chicago in early January and beginning with the most highly rated abstracts, discuss each one focusing on scientific merit and quality of new information. Clearly I need to achieve a diversified and balanced program; we work diligently to pick the highest rated abstracts, but consider many things such as conflicts of interest, repetition of previously published data, off-label use outside an IDE, diversification of speakers and institutions, and international representation. We finalize abstract selection decisions based on consensus.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Attendance at the Vascular Annual Meeting and abstract submissions have increased over the past few years, and I would like to believe this is a result of the guiding principles I mentioned. My fundamental goal as chair has been to transform the Vascular Annual Meeting into an essential scientific international meeting inclusive of academic and community-based practicing vascular surgeons, as well as physicians in specialties with overlapping interests. I think we have elevated the Vascular Annual Meeting to a level of importance such that most physicians will not want to miss out attending every year.
What’s on the horizon?
As the society’s Vascular Quality Initiative has matured over the past few years, we are now capable to really dive into outcomes in a far more sophisticated and meaningful way than any of the other databases widely available to physicians.
It is already influencing how we practice, leading to refinement and new clinical guidelines. I would urge everyone in our specialty to participate in this quality initiative. It is the best opportunity to objectively look at your respective clinical outcomes in the context of practicing vascular surgeons and endovascular specialists around the country.
What do you see as the knowledge gaps that need to be addressed?
Increasingly we are getting requests from the membership to provide practical, “how to do it” didactics. As the frequency and volume of traditional open procedures have diminished, practicing vascular surgeons are appropriately concerned about retaining the skills to do procedures like open aortic procedures as well as lower extremity distal arterial bypass. Looking back to my fellowship when we performed at least several distal lower extremity arterial bypasses each week, as well as a similar number of open aortic procedures, this is the most obvious knowledge gap we are facing. Sessions at the annual meeting dedicated to “how I do it,” perhaps including open simulation, will become increasingly essential.
Why commit to being program chair?
Serving on the Postgraduate Education and Vascular Annual Meeting Program Committees is a wonderful opportunity to make a far greater impact on education and mentorship within our specialty than we are able to do in our local institutions. Serving as program chair of the Vascular Annual Meeting is a substantial commitment, but it has been rewarding and I have established enduring professional relationships across our membership. Candidly, I have really enjoyed serving these past 3 years.