The American Academy of Pediatrics Annual Meeting: Why I Attend

 Primary Care Matters is a guest column written for MedStat by a local pediatrician or primary care provider.

(From the June 2019 Issue of MedStat

 Written by Darryl Robbins, DO

Darryl Robbins, DO is a practicing pediatrician with Pediatric and Adolescent Practitioners in Gahanna, OH. He has been on the medical staff of Nationwide Children's Hospital since 1975. He completed medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and his residency at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. He has held multiple leadership positions within Nationwide Children's and the community, and he continues to be an avid reader and learner.

Darryl Robbins, DO

The Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), known as the National Conference & Exhibition (NCE), may not be on your radar screen. The five day meeting, including a weekend, usually takes place sometime between mid-September and early November. Many attendees do not stay the full five days. The conference is moderately expensive. The location rotates among some of our great cities, each having a number of attractions for attendees and their families.

The conference is normally attended by more than 10,000 pediatricians from all over the country and the world. I have attended the AAP annual conference for most of the past decade. I did miss it one year though, because it conflicted with my mother’s 90th birthday – but it was a tough choice!

So … why consider going?

 It’s a great educational opportunity…

  • The conference offers about 350 educational courses, most in 90 minute or 45 minute blocks, covering a very broad range of topics, carefully planned by the educational committee for the AAP NCE. There are daily late-morning plenary sessions include keynote speakers in addition to three-to-five 20-minute presentations on topics of current and/or general interest.
  • The conference offers a small number of courses, known as ticketed workshops, such as “Asthma Gadgets”, that you can sign up for (in advance) for a nominal charge.
  • There are many courses to choose from within each time block, and you can change your mind about which ones to attend on the spur of the moment for almost all non-ticketed courses. Many of the courses are repeated once.
  • You can earn 20 hours or more of MOC 2 credits depending on your choice of sessions.
  • More than 350 organizations and companies sponsor booths in a huge exhibition hall. Big Pharma is there, of course, but you can avoid them if you wish. Instead, you can visit exhibits covering smaller drug and device vendors, non-profit organizations focusing on medical or social issues, publishers highlighting their books and commercial exhibits offering child-appropriate items, often at significant discounts.

with strong support services…  

  • A housing link on the NCE website offers (and handles the reservations for) a range of hotels at discounted rates near the convention site.
  • Frequently-scheduled transportation is provided (without charge) to/from hotels that are not walkable to/from the convention site.
  • Presentations (slides) pop up online about 10 days before the conference so that you can print them out if you wish or bring your laptop with you to the courses (free Wifi available).
  • The AAP sponsors an on-site bookstore and a shop offering member discounts for AAP publications and branded merchandise.
  • At the conference, there’s an online alphabetical listing of attendees, and an intra-conference messaging facility. Business services are also available.

and lots of social/networking opportunities…

  • A lot of thought is given to family activities helping to make it a special experience should you bring family along. A number of family-centered programs are offered:
    • Very largely attended free AAP President’s reception on Friday evening typically includes an adjacent family reception focusing on activities (and food) for the attendees’ children, who are encouraged to participate.
    • The main social event is held on Saturday evening. You sign up for this event either when you register online or when you sign-in at the Conference Center. Although the event is often free, this past year there was a nominal fee.
    • Optional activities, designed to highlight the host city, are offered for spouses and kids during the day.
  • Some children’s hospitals, including Nationwide Children’s Hospital, host an evening reunion/reception or dinner. You are likely to run into colleagues you may not have seen for a long time.
  • Each district (including ours - District V) holds a free breakfast meeting early Sunday morning with an opportunity to learn more about what is currently going on in pediatrics in “our neck of the woods”.The Ohio Chapter is a national leader in this area.

Several highlights for me from the November, 2018 meeting in Orlando:

  • 2019 Keynote speaker, Adam Foss, JD, a former prosecuting attorney from Boston discussed toxic stress, crime and sentencing in the prison system in the USA.This was one of the most outstanding presentations I have heard at NCE. His TED talk is not to be missed.
  • 90-minute update course on concussions – I can throw out much of the assessment and management approaches that I learned just four years ago – now mostly just plain wrong. There are new tools and new approaches here.
  • New – a 90-minute round-table on medical mediation.I was just plain curious.This course was taught by an attorney who is a national expert on medical mediation and a professor at a medical school in Tennessee. Fortuitously, the instructor led a three-day conference on medical mediation at The Ohio State University College of Medicine division of Medical Ethics in December, which I was able to attend.
  • One of the off-the-beaten-path courses, Seafood Recommendations, yielded this surprising tidbit: fish sticks (pollock) are one of the healthiest fish of them all!
  • The social event this past November was at Orlando’s Universal Studios. The Harry Potter virtual reality ride should never be required for an AAP member of the Senior Section.It was hairy!

Is the NCE worthwhile?

In my opinion, absolutely – at least experience the conference once if you are able to. The AAP NCE is a great way to stay up-to-date in a very pleasant and supportive teaching/learning environment. If you decide to give it a try, I suggest you register early to get the best choice of hotels; and if you want to sign up for any of the ticketed workshops, the seating is limited and many sell out quickly.

Several local CPP member pediatricians have been to the annual NCE on multiple occasions. Any of us would be delighted to assist you in navigating the AAP annual NCE site. Contact Frank Combs, our chief administrator at CPP, at (614) 722-2145 to set this up.

The 2019 NCE is scheduled for October 25th – 29th in New Orleans. Registration is open now!


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