Getting the most out of meetings like VAM

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Christopher Audu

It’s Friday at Vascular Annual Meeting (VAM) 2022 in Boston! Hopefully, many of us trainees are getting to mingle and meet leaders in the field in addition to other trainees outside of our usual orb. In his 2020 Vascular and Endovascular Surgical Society (VESS) Presidential Address, Matthew Corriere, MD, from the University of Michigan, spoke on the topic of “Meetingology” and shared his tips for conducting meetings within the context of COVID-19 social distancing practices. 

Some of those lessons still apply today. While we are enjoying the privilege of an in-person VAM thanks to efficient COVID-19 vaccines, I imagine that the notion of making the most of this meeting weighs heavy on many a trainee’s mind. 

And if you’re an introvert like me, you may feel intimidated to speak to surgeons you don’t know and whose names and faces you’ve only ever seen in print. 

There’s no right way to engage a meeting but here’s a few things I’ve found to be helpful for me in navigating meetings like VAM. 

Define your goals 

If you’re here to present your work, do so with gusto…and then take a break and relax. If you’re here as part of the resident and trainee programming, engage with the program. Ask questions. Get business cards. Go to the poster session when no one is there and peruse the posters. It may give you a feel for the meeting and your potential role in vascular surgery. Come to the Residency & Fellowship fair! Talk to all the programs you’re interested in. 

Use your mentors and friends as resources 

If you have an assigned mentor, find them and connect early. Often, your mentor can also help introduce you to people you may have never met before. If you don’t have a mentor, say hello to a stranger. Introduce yourself. Make eye contact. The cold introduction can be intimidating, and oftentimes, the well-known folks are surrounded or they have to run to other obligations, but if you have the chance to say hello, don’t let the opportunity go. 

Step outside the box 

The presentations are incredible at VAM but exploring the city is fun too. Or going to dinners/gatherings. Or sports events. Or just hanging out with friends you haven’t seen in a long time. You’re building social capital and that is important too. Sometimes, the best thing about these meetings are the honest conversations you get to have outside the formal meeting and I hope you get to enjoy this experience. 

Have fun and enjoy VAM 2022! 

Christopher Audu, MD, is a vascular surgery resident at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Vascular Specialist resident/fellow editor. 

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