The Hematologist

September-October 2018, Volume 15, Issue 5

Attend ASH-a-Palooza at the 2018 ASH Annual Meeting

Laura C. Michaelis, MD Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology and Oncology
Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI

Published on: August 27, 2018

Alison Loren, chair of ASH’s Committee on Training, admits that she was craving inspiration as she met with colleagues to discuss Trainee Day, held each year at the ASH Annual Meeting.

“Well, it’s not like there were complaints or anything. It was mostly that I was getting a little bored planning the same event every year,” she said. “These events were well attended, but we thought that the format had become a little staid — very 90s.”

It turns out that she wasn’t alone in wanting to shake things up. At a 2016 meeting, the Committee on Training spent three hours brainstorming about other models for Trainee Day. “We just wanted to blow things up.” Dr. Loren said that she was overwhelmed with how rapidly and creatively her colleagues took on the challenge. “Once we gave them permission to be creative, all sorts of ideas came up.” From there, ASH-a-Palooza began to take shape.

Trainee Day at the annual meeting is one of the more important traditions for the Society. It’s a series of events aimed at providing key content to fellows, PhD candidates and post-docs, residents, and students who are exploring how they want their careers to evolve. Key content includes lessons on applying for grants, building professional relationships, and understanding timelines for professional development. What Dr. Loren and her team were hoping to deliver was the same content in a new, modern format.

“I give a ton of credit to the ASH staff,” she said, describing the brainstorming session. After this meeting, the staff “came back to us with a palate of ideas and ways to organize them.” The result is a trainee-centered event that aims to provide a vibrant, personalized experience. There will be a series of short “ASH Talks” (similar to TED Talks) on topics such as choosing a specialty, negotiating salary, and maintaining wellness without compromising professionalism. There will be concurrent short talks called “Blood Drops” that focus on everything from overseas mission work, to screening for heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, to moving from academia into industry. In between, trainees will have opportunities for one-on-one meetings with potential mentors.

Once her committee was on board, it was time to sell the idea to the Society’s leadership. Dr. Loren admits she was apprehensive about making the pitch. “We all know ASH has very high standards,” she recalled, thinking about the day of her presentation. “I think they might have been worried that we were planning a trivial, carnival atmosphere.” So, when she got up to speak to the Executive Committee, she made sure to emphasize the thought that had gone into the proposed format changes.

“This field is intrinsically interesting. There is so much diversity and energy in what we do,” said Dr. Loren. Her goal was to convince the right people that an alternative event format could convey that energy and passion to trainees. And it worked. ASH Chief Event Strategy Officer William Reed prepared a mockup of what PETCO Park might look like when reimagined as a 21st-century classroom. By the end of the presentation, members of the Executive Committee had caught the bug. “Faculty in the audience came up to me asking, ‘Can I come?’”

As it turns out, many of them will be going: With the transformation of the format, a large number of contributing faculty is needed; many of them have volunteered to serve as mentors or to present talks throughout the course of the day.

Dr. Loren anticipates still more evolution for ASH-a-Palooza in the coming year, driven by feedback from trainees and speakers. But what she looks forward to most is simply being at the event and absorbing the buzz. “PETCO Park is the perfect locale this year in San Diego, but this is the kind of event that can adapt to any host city,” she says. “The best part of all this has been seeing how excited everyone is with the idea and watching their creativity give it momentum.”

ASH-a-Palooza is scheduled to take place from 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. on Friday, November 30, before the start of the annual meeting on Saturday. There is no fee to attend, and registration is not required; however, attendance will be limited to individuals registered as fellows or trainees, and access to the event will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

Conflict of Interests

Dr. Michaelis indicated no relevant conflicts of interest. back to top