APSA 9th Annual Meeting Review
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By Alex Adami, University of Connecticut School of Medicine

The APSA Annual Meeting (AM) is the premier event for physician-scientist trainees. The 2013 AM, held from April 26th to April 28th at Chicago’s Fairmont Millennium Park Hotel, was no exception. Distinguished speakers and unmatched mentoring and networking opportunities are among the many draws of the APSA AM. If you couldn’t make it this year, read on for a full recap of the meeting and why you will undoubtedly want to make attending in 2014 a top priority.

The 2013 APSA AM was the ninth such meeting of physician-scientists trainees from across the nation and the world. Held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) and the Association of American Physicians (AAP), the AM brings together the most prominent physician-scientists and trainees, many of whom are APSA members. The AM began with APSA’s business meeting, where members of the Executive Council presented progress reports and participated in small groups for discussion and feedback on APSA initiatives.

Shinya YamanakaShinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, discusses the many potential uses of induced
pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)
Photo by Alex Adami for APSA

Following the business meeting, APSA’s Plenary Session began. One event of particular note was the Women in Medicine panel discussion. This panel, whose members were all prominent female physician-scientists, shared advice and discussed pitfalls facing female trainees. Also included were several keynote speakers invited by APSA. Even in a meeting of members of the ASCI and AAP, APSA’s keynote speakers were equally stellar. Indeed, the final speaker of the session, Levi Garraway, drew a packed room, including many ASCI and AAP members and the Director of the NIH, Francis Collins.

The Plenary Sessions of the ASCI and AAP continued the impressive speaking roster. Friday alone included Francis Collins’ discussion of the state of the NIH and the future of translational research and 2013 Nobel Laureate Shinya Yamanaka’s demonstration that a talk about induced pluripotent stem cells can be very funny, as all who remember his smiling mouse can attest. On Saturday, Nobel Laureate Stanley Prusiner spoke of the possibility that many neurologic disorders originate from prions, while Nobel Laureate Bruce Beutler discussed the analysis of knockout mice for novel gene functions on Sunday.

Of course, not every speaker can possess a Nobel, but the other keynote speakers were no minor players. Kevin Shannon, former UCSF MSTP director, had much to say about the state of physician-scientist training, while cardiologist Stanley Hazen discussed the recently-revealed role of diet and the gastrointestinal microflora in the pathology of atherosclerotic heart disease, to name just two of many impressive speakers. If you are a physician-scientist trainee, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an assortment of talks matching the caliber of that at APSA’s AM. Lest you think trainees were lost in a sea of grand presences, APSA’s presence at the AM got a shout-out from Francis Collins on the April 30th edition of NPR’s Marketplace, and John Potts, 2013 Kober Medal awardee, spoke passionately to the mentors in the audience, urging them to be active in mentoring, seek out junior physician-scientists who need guidance, and be active participants in the success of those they mentor.

Complementing lectures were numerous opportunities to interact personally with the prominent physician-scientists in attendance. The poster session had record submissions, with nearly 230 presented posters. ASCI and AAP members engaged in discussions with presenting trainees, an excellent opportunity to discuss your work and build connections for future collaborations or other opportunities.

Taylor Heald-Sargent and Evan Noch at the Poster SessionEvan Noch, then President-Elect of APSA, and Taylor Heald-Sargent, then Vice
President, Events at the AM Poster Session
Photo by Dylan Nielsen for APSA

Further interactivity came from the many panels organized by APSA. Writing for Basic Science and Clinical Journals drew editors of the JCI and JAMA, while the Residency 101 panel once again brought physician-scientists in the clinical training phase to share lessons they learned with trainees facing that career change. Many had questions, and the panel shared answers sure to help anyone approaching the end of medical and graduate school. Perhaps the highlight of the panels was the APSA Policy panel, organized by the Policy Committee and featuring leaders in translational research, including Francis Collins and Barry Coller. The final panel, held on Sunday, built on the Residency 101 panel, discussing post-graduate opportunities. This panel featured Griffin Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and Sapan Desai, recently-minted physician-scientist and founder of his own company. The panelists discussed opportunities from academia to government to business.

Every year APSA, together with the ASCI and the AAP, dedicates a substantial portion of the AM to opportunities for trainees to network with and learn from senior physician-scientists in a variety of fields and occupations. In addition to networking at the poster session, a major benefit for APSA members attending the AM is the mentoring breakfast series held on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and the 2013 breakfasts were especially well-attended. Mentors represented the full range and breadth of the physician-scientist workforce, from prominent academic researchers like Wayne Yokoyama and Margaret Hostetter to senior members of the biomedical industry, including Michael Rosenblatt, former Dean at Tufts University and now Chief Medical Officer for Merck & Co. Discussion at the tables was lively, and is consistently one of the most highly regarded aspects of the Annual Meeting.

Additionally, and of special importance for APSA members nearing the end of their medical and graduate school training, the AM’s finale was a luncheon with representatives and directors of research-oriented residency and fellowship training programs. Highly anticipated every year, this unique opportunity to talk to many programs of particular importance to physician-scientist trainees is an event not to be found anywhere else. More than a dozen programs from across the United States were in attendance.

Of course, the AM is not all serious science. APSA’s welcome reception, held this year on the 99th floor Skydeck of the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, brought APSA members together to meet, greet, and enjoy a celebration over 1200 feet above the Chicago streets.

So, remember: the 2014 AM, APSA’s 10th, runs from the 25th to the 27th of April, 2014. You won’t want to miss out.