By Jana Volejnikova, MD, Charles University in Prague Czech Republic
In celebration of ASH’s 50th, Reflections on ASH is a series of articles that touch on different people’s perspectives on the ASH annual meeting. We kick off this series with Dr. Volejnikova reflecting on her experience at her first annual meeting in 2007.
I had just arrived at the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, and I was trying not to lose my colleagues in the huge crowd. I figured that most of these people must be going to the ASH meeting, too! They were carrying posters and speaking a variety of languages. What good luck to get to come to ASH as a second-year postgraduate student from the Czech Republic, who had never visited the United States or participated in any big international meetings. Thank goodness for living in a free country; such travel from my country would not have been possible before 1989. I was told the ASH meeting is the key meeting in hematology — excellent scientific material, comprehensive information, and perfect organization. My excitement was high; this meeting would certainly make the lengthy visa procedure and 11-hour flight worthwhile.
I arrived and took a deep breath of surprisingly warm air, felt the spirit, and enjoyed the skyline of an American city shortly before Christmas (what an amount of decorations). How astonishingly huge the conference center is! I felt like “Alice in Wonderland” walking on red carpets. I tried to catch as much information as possible. Fortunately, a colleague had advised me to make my itinerary for the meeting in advance. I have to confess that I was not always able to capture all of the presented data, but following my itinerary broadened my knowledge and understanding with each day.
I found my Trainee badge opened the door to a broad scale of activities. Alas, I learned that there were no more tickets for the Trainee Day; I must book earlier next time. But, still there are much more interesting things than one can absorb. And, I enjoyed much needed snacks and refreshments at the Trainee Welcome Reception, as I was hungry and tired after a long day of walking between lecture halls!
My mind still whirls today as I reflect on the experience. The program was first-rate — just as I expected. I greatly enjoyed seeing the outstanding lectures of the renowned experts and award winners, whose names a foreigner like me had only come across in books or scientific journals. I wish I could imagine what the first ASH meetings were like and how the Society has evolved through the years. It makes me realize how much the face of hematology has changed over the decades and how rapidly the understanding of the biology, prognosis, and quality of life has improved, thus bringing new hope to patients.
The challenging feel of an energetic international event with great potential of finding new friendships and cooperation summarizes this first ASH meeting experience. The meeting gives the best option to prove one’s work under strong international competition. I’m sure that to others, like myself, publishing results or even attending the ASH annual meeting is a strong motivation. I have so much to share about the meeting after I return home. I must do my best so my boss allows me to come again next year!
Editor’s note: Dr. Volejnikova must have done her best because she’s attending this year’s annual meeting.
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