Each year the Society of Vascular Surgery (SVS) holds its annual vascular meeting (also known as the Vascular Annual Meeting or VAM). This meeting rotates from an east coast based (Washington, Boston), central based (Chicago) and western based (San Diego) locations each year. The meeting usually occurs in mid to early June. The formal schedule is usually released around April before the meeting. There are a lot “usually” in this document meaning that the approximate times and days of the meeting might be different from year to year. You need to check the website (https://vascular.org) for details about a particular year’s meeting.
The SVS has several funding sources that can be applied for (Medical Student Travel Scholarship and Minority Scholarship for example). I would check the official website in the late winter and early spring for details.
PARTS OF THE MEETING
If you get the medical student section for travel support there is usually set of lectures, talks and social gatherings. If your get this funding support, you will need to be present for the talks and make sure that you sign-in to get your credit and confirm the support.
There are two different poster sessions. All posters are usually place up on the first of second day of the meeting usually at 10 AM when the Exhibit Hall opens.
Interactive Poster Session:
This session is designed for you to place your poster up for review. The posters are displayed on a tack board and have an assigned “IP” number. This allows people who walk into the poster area to find your topic and then proceed to your “IP” number. Usually the posters are grouped by topics (aortic, peripheral arterial etc.). Then there is usually a poster session that has a cocktail hour associated with it and allows you to interact with people as they walk by. There is no formal presentation for you but as part of your poster you will already have recorded a presentation that will be linked to the QR code of your poster.
This session is when the poster is placed up at its assigned “PC” location. Like the interactive session there are groupings of the posters. There are usually 10 posters per section. There is usually a poster competition at usually occurs in groups of 10 or so. There will be a moderator who walks around with you and the other poster presenters. Each person has a clicker that they use to vote for each presenter. The winner of each of the sections goes on to the semi-final – around ten people or so and then they select the top four or so to present at the podium. The podium is then judged and the top three winners.
These are known as the “big” sessions and usually include top topics like ethical issues in the practice (William J. von Liebig Forum) and presidential address. These are usually held in the largest room of the meeting.
These sessions usually run in parallel with other concurrent sessions. A multitude of topics are covered. You will need to check the schedule especially is you are signed up for the whole meeting to pick what session you want to go to. Sometimes there is a “ticket” that is needed to attend (see tips below regarding tickets).
Usually each morning (usually starting early around 630 and running to 8 to 830) of the meeting there are special topic sessions (hemodialysis, deep vein thrombosis, etc.) that have breakfast served. Again, these sessions are usually ticketed and related to your registration. These are pretty good to go to if for nothing else than for the breakfast.
This is the large room that allows industry to display their devices and/or pharmaceuticals to the attendees at a “booth”. These booths can range from a simple table to a large sit-down area with lots of bells and whistles (coffee stations, candy, popcorn etc.). The exhibit hall usually opens on the second day of the meeting around 10 AM. I usually take a group of students around the hall to discuss a variety of topics. Each year the meeting organizers will have a way for you to gain points for visiting the booths and there are usually prizes. At times there will be lectures that will be given either at the booth or in a lecture hall in the exhibit hall.
This fair is usually held on the Friday of the meeting. It is basically a large room with a variety of tables for students to interact with the programs, get materials, meet people in the training program and interact with the program director. This is one of the most important events that you need to go to for several reasons. First it will allow you to understand what programs are out there and get a feel for them by interacting with the people in them. Second it will give you a feel what they are looking for in terms of an applicant. Third speaking with the program director of the chair of the department will be helpful to you in the future to connect your name to your face and make them remember you when they are potentially handling your file if and when you apply.
1. The dress for the meeting is usually business attire. I always tell students and residents to wear what they would wear to their preceptor and/or clinic.
2. When you check in on the first day you will be given a “badge.” This will allow you access several of the sessions. It will be checked by people all over the place. Do not lose your badge – most times I keep it around my neck.
3. When you check in you will also have several “tickets” printed. These usually allow you access to some special sessions and/or breakfast sessions. Print them and place it in the back of your badge. Most of the time they are designed to be on the back of the badge.
4. There is a lot of content in the meeting. You will need to look at the schedule and pick what you will want to see. There will be times when you will have two things that occur at the same time – pick the one that you think advances your understanding of vascular disease and how we treat it as vascular surgeons.
5. You potentially could be involved in mentor/mentee activities (breakfast, cocktails, etc.), if so, you want to research what type of practice your mentor has (academic, private, etc.) and formulate questions that she/he could help answer for you.
6. There is a lot of things going during the meeting for most attendees. If a conversation is cut short with a mentor, then don’t get upset it is the nature of the environment. Ask if you can follow-up with an email or meet them again for some more time to complete what you were talking about.
7. Most of the sessions will have some content that is above your head, that is fine just attend. The simple exposure even to topics that are advance will help with your understanding of the field.
8. Many times when you visit a vender booth, they will ask you to scan your badge. They are basically collecting information and most likely will send you information about their products. Most times when you tell them you are medical students; they usually don’t ask for your contact information. I would allow them to scan your badge. I would not write down additional information like your cell phone, email etc. They usually can get at this information from your registration. If they ask about your interaction with me, I would state that you are a student that works with me. They might get pushy and ask for my contact information – please do not give out any information like my cell phone and/or email. You can certainly take their card and pass that along to me.
9. Make sure you visit the Society of Vascular Surgery booth. You can get information about student memberships and they usually have extras there like a headshot picture for free.
10. I would visit the “Endovascular Today” booth and pick up the latest issue. This is basically a good magazine for you to see some of the technology. There are articles in the magazine but is basically an advertisement for industry. Regardless, it is free, and you can sign up for a free subscription.
11. Most booths will have free things to get you attention – free articles or mugs with the company’s name etc. Feel free to take the items if they are out but be aware that the sales people might be asking you for contact information.
12. If the meeting is an interesting city that you would like to visit I would either add time on to the front end of the meeting or after the meeting or both. During the meeting there are lots of things happening and you will find that you most times will want to stay at the meeting.
13. Many times you can book the hotel for the meeting through the website. There is really no advantage to being in the convention hotel versus one down the street except for the convivence of being close to the meeting. Most times you can find just as good of a room (other chains, Expedia, Air B and B, etc.) a little bit away that a ride share would not be too crazy to use. Remember you will most likely be at the meeting most of the day and coming back and forth is usually not that common.
14. Many times industry will entertain physicians afterhours at dinners. Sometimes these are advertised to be onsite at the meeting (i.e. in the exhibit space) or at off-site restaurants. Just check with the company if you can come. Usually if it is on the footprint of the meeting then it is usually more open season. Sometimes you mentors are invited to dinners and they might extent that to you. If that does happen, I would go and just make sure the company representative meets you that you thank her/him for allowing you to attend and that you were invited by mentor X. That way they understand you are extension of your mentor and such be on your best behavior. You can see people get carried away at these dinners – just be smart and stay out of trouble.