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The Trainee Council Provides Advice on Navigating the 61st ASH Annual Meeting

With hundreds of sessions, more than 30,000 hematologists, and so much to see, the ASH annual meeting can feel overwhelming. In addition to the cutting-edge science, there is ASH Central, countless opportunities for collaboration and networking, and ASH-a-Palooza! Where do you even start? We sought out the collective wisdom of the ASH Trainee Council to hear their best practices for navigating the ASH annual meeting. For more tips and answers to your questions, watch the Trainee Council’s webinar. Listen to Drs. Marquita Nelson, Jori May, and Nicole Cruz discuss important sessions, events, and features that could benefit the trainee community at this year’s annual meeting.

How to Navigate the 61st ASH Annual Meeting, with the ASH Trainee Council:

"My approach to the annual meeting is to find the trainee-specific events. The content is catered to my level, I'm surrounded by peers with similar interests, and I'm also often introduced to leaders in the field. It's a great way to learn and start to build my hematology network all at once." –Jori May, MD

“First, planning and preparation are key. Large meetings can be overwhelming. The best way that I’ve learned to manage this is to spend some time with the schedule of presentations in the days before the meeting planning out the talks, posted sessions, and educational activities I want to attend. With a predetermined plan of attack, you can decide exactly what you want to get out of a meeting, and you are less likely to miss presentations of interest. Second, carry business cards. You will absolutely make new connections at ASH if you’re doing it right! Carry business cards with your most reliable business contact information (i.e. email) so that potential collaborators can keep in touch with you after the meeting. I also like to write a few words on the back of business cards about where I met a person and in what context so that I don’t forget who people are.” –Lachelle Weeks, MD, PhD

“First, wear comfortable shoes. The convention center and hotel areas are huge and meeting rooms may be far apart. I’ve walked over five miles during ASH in the past. Second, plan down time. The meeting can be overwhelming, and you will need some time each day to recharge so that you’re at your best when at presentations and networking.” –Marquita Nelson, MD

“First, ask questions. Being at a conference site provides us unique opportunities to ask questions face-to-face and to have a deeper discussion, even future collaborations. Don’t be shy and ask questions. Second, are you looking for a new position? Use the ASH annual meeting as the starting point for your job search. Be confident and be yourself!” –Ze Zheng, MBBS, PhD

“First, attend the late breaking abstracts to not miss out on the big stories. Second, the educational sessions are a fantastic way to stay up to date with a certain expertise area. Third, make a schedule before the meeting based on interest topics such as diseases or genes, cellular processes, or clinical versus laboratory, and check abstracts from "the big names." Same holds true for the poster session: select posters beforehand.” –Anna Marneth, PhD

“Things I do in preparation: First, highlight sessions of interest (especially oral abstracts or trainee-directed sessions) and add to my calendar. Second, and an unpopular take, I prefer oral abstract sessions to plenaries because they tend to be more interactive and if you’re really interested in a topic you can meet the presenters afterwards. Some other tips: Attend networking/social events, it’s good practice! And sign up for mentoring sessions to build your mentor network and stay in touch with the people you meet as they could be future collaborators.” –Urshila Durani, MD, MPH

“First, enjoy the time, recognizing the privilege to be there. Second, plan! Download the app and map out your days with the sessions that you want to go to. However, don’t overwhelm yourself. ASH is about being inspired and renewed for the real work back home. If you’d like to meet with a few people, try to arrange the meetings well in advance so that you can get on their schedule. Attend the Oral Sessions and the Poster Sessions for you specific interests. It is one of the best ways to meet and discuss with others in a no-pressure environment. Stay around the oral sessions to ask questions of the presenters. They love talking about their research and often are willing to collaborate with trainees (or at least share wisdom). Finally, focus; avoid the temptation to be distracted by all the free dinners/swag offered. Focus on learning and building relationships.” –Daniel Richardson, MD, MPH