By Philip Blumenfeld, MD, MPH
Like many other residents, over the years I have had the opportunity to present various research projects at the ASTRO Annual Meeting. These meetings have afforded me the opportunity to participate in sessions involving many issues relevant to radiation oncology and to learn about cutting edge advances in our field. However, I often leave these presentations with the feeling of a “missed opportunity,” as I would find myself choosing between two or three equally interesting sessions taking place at the same time. Moreover, given the large crowd that ASTRO attracts, as a resident physician, I have found it difficult to meet more senior physicians and start the networking process, an integral part of the job-seeking process. This past March, I presented my research at the Multidisciplinary Thoracic Cancers Symposium in San Francisco. In many respects, this intimate and focused meeting was significantly different from my previous conference experiences.
I first learned about the symposium from an attending physician and mentor of mine with whom I had been working closely on different research projects. We submitted our work on SBRT for lung cancer in the very elderly and outcomes of SBRT based on molecular characteristics. We found that our nuanced work in lung SBRT was very well received by other physicians specializing in thoracic oncology and led to discussions regarding ideas on how to further our work, with the possibility of collaboration with others. Furthermore, learning from other presentations and discussions ignited ideas on how my future research work could be expanded.
The back-to-back sessions included an excellent variety of presentations. While many of the talks included significant novel research-based presentations, the meeting also included expert-led tumor board discussions and high-yield practice guiding talks within the different thoracic oncology subfields. Moreover, while radiation oncologists made up a large portion of the attendees at the conference, many of the presentations and attendees included leading thoracic surgeons and medical oncologists from around the country. The multidisciplinary discussions both boosted my knowledge of thoracic oncology and confirmed that the daily management decisions and treatment paradigms that I am learning during my residency are the same practices that are being done by the leaders in our field and in many of the leading cancer centers around the United States.
As any conference attendee knows, the coffee and mealtime breaks present an excellent opportunity to start the networking process. By virtue of the smaller meeting size and with everyone on the same schedule, I was able to meet physicians from across the country and have the opportunity to introduce myself to many of the top experts within the thoracic oncology and radiation oncology fields.
I encourage my fellow residents to submit abstracts and to participate in these more intimate and focused multidisciplinary meetings, as well as the Annual Meeting. The experience provides the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge research, and to see a broader picture of the field from a multidisciplinary perspective. Most important, the limited size of these meetings creates a friendly atmosphere and affords everyone the opportunity and time to meet and connect with both your peers and leading physicians in the field. This can be invaluable for future job networking and in advancing collaborative research projects.
The call for abstracts is now open for the 2018 Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancers Symposium, taking place February 15-17, 2018, at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona. This meeting is co-sponsored by the American Head and Neck Society, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and ASTRO. View the abstract submission tracks and guidelines. The deadline for abstract submissions is August 30, 2017, 11:59 p.m. Pacific time.
Philip Blumenfeld, MD, MPH, is currently entering his final year of residency in radiation oncology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.