‘Unique’ vascular meeting set to update surgeons, prioritize audience debate

Keith Calligaro

Prioritizing “entertaining and informative” sessions, the 29th Annual Pennsylvania Hospital Vascular Symposium and the 3rd Annual Pennsylvania Hospital/University of Pennsylvania Non-invasive Vascular Laboratory Symposium (April 21–22) in Philadelphia returns, providing the latest open surgical and endovascular management of vascular disease. Discussing this year’s meeting, Keith Calligaro, MD, chair and director, says the program will center around “brief” seven-minute presentations and subsequent case appraisal, aimed at sparking debate and audience discussion to aid information sharing and learning. 

“It is a pretty unique conference,” Calligaro explains, “during each session we have around four or five speakers, but very brief talks and after that we present cases and say: ‘What would you do?’” 

The program seeks to encompass all areas of vascular surgery, including evolving fields such as increasing endovascular management of thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms (TAAAs). Among other aspects of the program highlighted by Calligaro is the predominant theme of emerging techniques and technologies, including the role of artificial intelligence (AI). Leveling the playing-field, the meeting gives all participants the opportunity to share their methodology. Calligaro recalled a particular case he put to Bruce Perler, MD, who was chief of vascular surgery at Johns Hopkins: “I went up to him and asked ‘What would you do? […] He kept hedging, and I said you’ve got to make up your mind and say what you’re going to do. I thought he kept dodging my questions, and he finally said in an exasperated tone of voice, ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, I feel like I’m taking my vascular boards again!’” 

Calligaro commented on how the structure of the meeting has “evolved,” recalling the first 10 years, when the meetings were primarily devoted to one topic, such as aortic aneurysms or carotid disease. Following a more varied format over the next 20 years, he gathered feedback revealing the value audience members gained from active dialogue on a wider breadth of case presentations. Utilizing this back-and-forth as “reinforcement” for the core presentations, Calligaro now walks among the audience spotting dozing audience members and asking about their approach—“just to keep everyone on their toes.” 

“Every year we have three of the most famous vascular surgeons in the country present ‘My worst case with a bad outcome—they happen to me too’ during the second morning of the meeting,” he said. “I ask them not to present a tough case and the ending is how great you are. The ending should be that they are human and something didn’t go right, even for these experts. I think that’s the teaching point for the trainees.” 

Calligaro’s approach aims to bring humor to education, providing a unique twist to keep attendees engaged. Setting sights on April, Calligaro added that by “addressing controversial topics of interest” to vascular surgeons, reinforced by “lively, educational and fun” debate, he expects the meeting to be a success. 


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