This year’s Vascular Annual Meeting (VAM) took place just a short distance away from Richmond – in Washington DC! After completing a research project with Dr. Amendola over winter break during my M1 year, I was excited to present my poster at the conference. This was my first conference in medical school, and it certainly was a big step up from anything I presented at in undergrad! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going in, but I will say my expectations were completely blown out of the water. The main event the first day was a networking reception with other medical students, and there happened to be a fair amount of attendings and residents present too. I think Dr. Amendola has connections all over the country, and very quickly we were meeting other med students and residents in both general and vascular surgery, some of whom would spend a lot of the next 3 days with us!
The following day was the poster presentation session, which came after numerous lectures and scientific sessions. I can’t even describe how amazing it was to sit in on these talks, side-by-side with attendings, and to really blend in and feel as if I were one of them. This was such an intellectually enriching experience and, while I definitely couldn’t understand every detail, I learned so much about the field of vascular surgery and about medicine in general. The scientific sessions are where residents and attendings give a 5-10 minute talk of a case report or their current research and it was also a great learning experience to get more insight on putting together an effective presentation. They also have a “text-to-screen” feature where you message in your questions at the end. I really enjoyed the opportunity to engage in dialogue with the presenters for a few questions of mine that were selected, and it was a pretty cool feeling when the attending commented that it was a great question!
Before the poster session, Dr. Amendola walked us around the exhibit hall where many device and pharmaceutical companies come to market their products. Many of these products are introducing a new concept, so it was neat to get a feel for where the field is going. And of course, getting to play with simulation devices wasn’t too bad either! I was thankful that Dr. Amendola was able to provide context, both for the times when I had no idea what I was looking at, and to decode the marketing strategies to figure out the bottom line.
The following day was filled with more intriguing lectures and scientific sessions. The main event of the day, at least for the med students, was the residency fair. There were at least 40 tables filled with residents and attendings, and even program directors themselves. This was the first time I had done anything like that, so it sure was intimidating but it was an amazing experience! I left with a folder full of contact information from people that truly want to hear from me. Since I just finished my first year, they knew I wouldn’t be choosing a residency in the near future, but nonetheless they were more than willing to talk to me and give advice.
The fourth and final day was less busy, with more lectures and scientific sessions. My favorite event from this day was the “How I Do It” video session, in which residents and attendings presented 5 minutes worth of narrated operative recordings from a challenging case or something done with a novel technique. Getting to see how they work through problems in real time was fascinating and only makes me more eager to get in the OR. The most memorable case was a young lady whose stent had migrated into her right atrium. The rotating medical student was actually the one who came up with a solution intraoperatively after multiple failed retrieval attempts – and he went on to match with their program!
Overall, this was an absolutely amazing experience and I am so glad I attended. I have some new ideas about how to further my research and will be working with my fellow classmates to put together a publication. The impression I was left with after this week is that the vascular surgery community is close-knit and filled with passionate, brilliant physicians. I’m still working on deciding which surgical specialty I want to go into, but I truthfully would be honored to become part of this community. If my rotation schedule next summer allows, I surely will be back for VAM 2020!
2018-19 VSIG Vice President
VCU School of Medicine ‘22