CardioNerds Executive Correspondent Dr. Jessie Holtzman discussed the upcoming American College of Cardiology Annual Scientific Session & Expo (ACC.23) with Dr. Douglas Drachman, Chair of ACC.23/24, and Dr. Katie Berlacher, Vice Chair of ACC.23/24. The CardioNerds, who were awarded an IME grant by Esperion to fund travel to ACC.23 for several of their trainees, were elated to discuss all the innovative science that will be featured at the event with Drs. Drachman and Berlacher. The event, in the words of Dr. Holtzman, “features a veritable plethora of high-yield cardiology content across many, many subspecialty areas.”
ACC.23 Annual Scientific Session & Expo Together With World Congress of Cardiology, takes place March 4-6, 2023 in New Orleans, LA.
Dr. Jessie Holtzman: Well, hello everyone. I’m Jessie Holtzman. I’m one of the Internal Medicine Chief Residents at UCSF, and I’m the CardioNerds Director for ACC Conference Education. We CardioNerds are very excited for the American College of Cardiology 2023 Scientific Sessions to be held in New Orleans, March 4th through 6th. As an organization, the CardioNerds aim to democratize cardiovascular education, promote diversity and inclusion, provide mentorship and sponsorship, and invigorate a love of cardiovascular medicine and science. Through the Cardiovascular CardioNerds Conference Scholars Program, the CardioNerds attend conferences and scientific sessions with the goal to distill key takeaways.
This year we’re proud to have 11 conference scholars that are attending the American College of Cardiology 2023 Scientific Sessions with an independent medical education grant that’s sponsored by Esperion. Our scholars will be live tweeting, writing news articles, performing video interviews, selecting light breaking clinical trials for our upcoming Twitter-based journal clubs across subspecialties including general cardiology, electrophysiology, heart failure, interventional cardiology, advanced imaging prevention, and much, much more.
So to learn more about what to expect from ACC.23, we are honored to be joined by Dr. Doug Drachman and Dr. Katie Berlacher today. Dr. Doug Drachman is the current Chair of the American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions for 2023 and 2024. He’s an Interventional Cardiologist and the Director of Education for the Cardiology Division of the Massachusetts General Hospital, and he has dedicated his career to cardiology in education, research and advancing clinical care. He also serves as the Chair of the Education Committee and the Founder of the Sky Fellows Interventional Radiology Shared Training Program for the Society of Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions.
We’re also joined by Dr. Katie Berlacher, who is the current Vice Chair of the American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions for 2023/2024, and will then transition into the chair role for 2025 and 2026. She’s an Assistant Professor of Medicine and the Associate Chief of Education in the Division of Cardiology at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as the Director of the UPMC McGee-Womens Heart Program and the Program Director for the Cardiology Fellowship Program at UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. She’s a nationally recognized leader in the emerging medical education techniques and prioritizes building a diverse and inclusive workforce.
On a personal note, Dr. Berlacher has been a valued member of the CardioNerds community broadly and was given the Master CardioNerd Award in 2021. So a huge welcome to Dr. Drachman and Dr. Berlacher. So to get started, maybe we’ll start with Dr… Of course, we’re so glad to have you. So maybe we’ll start with Dr. Drachman. ACC.23 features a veritable plethora of high-yield cardiology content across many, many subspecialty areas. How do you recommend that attendees design their schedules to maximize learning while they’re at ACC.23?
Dr. Douglas Drachman: Well, first of all, thank you so much for having us here. It really is a privilege to have the chance to speak about our experience with planning of ACC.23 together with the World Heart Federation and the World Congress of Cardiology. We really feel at the conference that there’s going to be something for everyone and sometimes just looking at an agenda or a curriculum of a course like this, it can be a little bit overwhelming. I think even for people who plan this conference, it could be that way. So I think the fundamental recommendation I’d have would be to start early and look ahead.
There’s an app, an ACC.23/WCC app that’s available through the App Store right now where you can peruse the entire program and you can search for things that you might find interesting. It might be based on your clinical interest, it might be a particular clinical topic pathway. You can search by keywords. You might search by the days that you’re going to be there or the times that you think you might be interested in going to a session. And when you find them on the app, all you have to do, if you see a session you like, is you just touch it with your finger and you hold it for a second and it adds it to your personal calendar so you can be super organized about it.
But I think oftentimes the best-laid plans are just that. You may find three things that happen at exactly the same time and then you’re at a little bit of a loss to say, “Where am I going to go? Where am I going to actually physically be in the Convention Center in New Orleans?” And so I think we’re really fortunate because there’s a lot of technology that can support that. I’m not the kind of person who does tons of channel surfing, but if you are that type of person, you could literally sit inside one conference hall and stream another lecturer that’s happening at another time.
Please use your earbuds if you do that so you don’t create a lot of noise disruption, but you could pay attention to as many things as you like because all of the sessions at ACC.23/WCC are going to be recorded for review at a later point in time as well. I think there’s a lot of opportunity and ways to experience it. As you’re thinking about what you want to do, I’d say think of it like you’re approaching a buffet or a smorgasboard where there’s so many different things to sample that you should try just at least a little bit of everything so you see what you enjoy the most. I think there are going to be a ton of sessions that are focused on global health.
We are partnered with the World Heart Federation, so you’ll see a decidedly international flavor in the faculty, in the content, in the topics that we’re addressing, and we hope that through this type of programming we’ll help to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease throughout the world. There are many sessions that you’ll find in typical classrooms with lectures and discussion. Attend some of those. You may find things in the main tent that are focused on late breaking clinical trials or feature clinical research, so if you are like I am, a science and data junkie where you want to hear it right when it’s released and when it’s hot off the press, I think you can have those opportunities in the main tent, maybe joined by several hundreds if not thousands of other members of the cardiovascular community.
And then juxtaposed against that very often right outside of the main tent area, you might find an open-air stage called the Heart to Heart Theater where rather than showing lots of slides and having didactics, it’s often a panel discussion that is directly engaging the audience. You can walk through, you can filter in and out of those types of sessions. Listen and if it’s of interest to you, it’s very captivating and I think that these discussions often try to pull the learners in and make it a dynamic back and forth. So I think that’s something, be engaging, having engaging education is something that’s been at the very, very foremost of our minds throughout the entire planning process.
Also, don’t miss things like the Expo Center. There’s a lot of times to learn, a lot in Expo with industry partners, but also down in the Expo Center there are a couple of specific stages that are going to be very, very engaging as well. There’s one that’s called appropriately the Engaged Theater, and that’s where you’ll find the fellows in training jeopardy that always a heated competition every year. Practice your buzzer beating skills with your fingers on the button to answer those important trivia questions about cardiovascular disease. There’s the Young Investigator competition that’s also on that stage, but also in the Expo Center, new this year, there’s something called the Health Equity Hub.
This is an amazing opportunity to learn about the disparities in health care that I think we’re all facing across the country and throughout the world with some really, really unique and very engaging even technologies with virtual reality to experience a day in the life of someone perhaps from a different background than yourself as they face challenges throughout our health care systems, but also very interactive opportunities with thought leaders from across the world as they discuss issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion in terms of health care and how we deliver health care.
One other thing I want to emphasize as you’re trying to plan out your schedule, we have a lot of nuggets throughout the sessions, including our clinical intensive that is focused on critical care cardiology. This is something that has been very, very thoughtfully prepared by Drs. Rob Roswell and David Dudzinski, and it’s going to focus on really the evolution of the cardiac ICU in terms of a keynote address, but also focused on ways really to deliver optimal care to sometimes the very most complex patients that we face in cardiovascular medicine nowadays.
The final two things I’ll say are just, there are a lot of opportunities for casual learning. There’s a whole forum that’s called the Lounge and Learn. You can stop by various lounges from member sections and perhaps meet people who you may find a lot of alliance in terms of your clinical interests or your backgrounds and have a lot of opportunity for spontaneous conversation, and feel free really just to wander and have these important chance encounters. It’s such a great time for networking.
We’re just so thrilled to be there in person in New Orleans in a Convention Center and to have so many people who are like-minded and really to build a sense of community. I think that no matter what your stages of training or what your background is, you’re going to find something there and you’ll find a lot of people who share your interests. So I hope it’s a wonderful experience and I hope that this sort of pointers for how to get into it early, but also to have the chance to have some spontaneity when you’re there will help you navigate the scientific session as well.
Dr. Jessie Holtzman: Incredible. Thank you so much. It sounds like there’s certainly no shortage of learning opportunities. The key takeaways there I had were, start planning early, use the application when needed to help plan your agenda, and then try out a variety of different sessions to see what captures your engagement. Incredible.
Dr. Douglas Drachman: Absolutely.
Dr. Jessie Holtzman: Dr. Berlacher, I had a follow on question Dr. Drachman touched on briefly, but some folks won’t be able to attend in person and maybe joining virtually, or maybe you missed a session or want to revisit some content. What is the best way to go back and revisit, or to join virtually if so desired?
Dr. Katie Berlacher: Good question, Jessie. We are very aware that our world these days is what I call hybrid, which means that we live like this. We get to have a face-to-face meeting virtually, which pre-pandemic we actually didn’t do all that often. It would’ve been just a phone call or whatnot. So we likewise do education that way, too. So we make it both virtual and synchronous and then we will also make it virtual and available not when it is happening live. So there’s a platform called ACC Anywhere that is the key to finding all of these sessions afterwards and during. So, the during Dr. Drachman was talking about, you can stream some of these sitting in another session.
I don’t recommend that. Your mind will not process those things very fast, but if you happen to do that, you can. There will be six live channels streaming at the time of the conference while it is happening. There will be about 80 sessions that are occurring live at that point in time. But all of the sessions in the classrooms will be recorded and posted on ACC Anywhere afterwards. So you’ll have access, if you miss one of the sessions. Maybe, like in my app right now when I have it, there’s a couple like this where I have some conflicts and there’s two or three things that I want to see at the same time on the same day, and I’m going to have to figure that out where, “What happens when I choose?”
It looks like this. I don’t know if you can see it. Oh, uh-oh, like that, right? There’s two things at the same time and I’m like, “Oh, shoot, I’m going to have to choose on that day,” but then I can go back in whichever one I didn’t choose. I can go to ACC Anywhere and say, “I wanted to go to this one, but I didn’t go to this one, so I’ll watch this one virtually.” It’s similar to what it was last year. I actually had some of my trainees that said they were listening to the session in the car on their way or at the airport. They were watching it as they were because they missed one.
So those are things that you can find anywhere. The hot tip though is the in-person is what allows you to get to the things like Heart to Heart, the Expo Center, the Future Hub, the Health Equity Hub. Those sorts of things will not be available online. So if you are interested in those, it’s even more of a reason to come in person. You can still register to make it in person and come to New Orleans. And I’m pretty sure that there’s still ways to get there. Planes, trains, automobiles, that will allow you to attend in person should you wish.
Dr. Jessie Holtzman: Incredible. So hopefully we will all make it there in person, but if not, there are ways to keep learning. Excellent. Dr. Drachman, I heard that you had mentioned this March Matchup room and the Fellows Feud and other fun features. Can you tell us more? Much of our listenership and many of the folks involved in CardioNerds are residents, fellows, early trainees, early career faculty. What is this room and what can people expect from this feature?
Dr. Douglas Drachman: I’m so glad you asked about it. This has been something that Katie and I and Jane Linderbaum, the cardiovascular team lead for planning the meeting, have all been so excited about. We’ve worked really closely with the ACC staff who have been absolutely amazing just to make it happen. So I think it started with this idea that we just wanted to do something that would just absolutely maximize engagement. We wanted stuff where people would feel captivated, they want to be pulled into the room to see what’s going on. And as we talked to our planning committee and really tried to flesh out this idea, it kept coming up. Oftentimes ACC happens right during the March Madness basketball tournament.
We’re all paying attention to the game. There’s just a spirit of “friendly competition,” maybe less friendly at certain times depending on the team that you’re rooting for. But there’s always just this excitement in the air, and we wanted to try to distill that into something that had to do with cardiovascular learning. And so the idea of March Matchup is that within this room there’s going to be, first of all, a very dynamic stage setup. It’s going to perhaps look different depending on who’s presenting what and what’s going on. But the sessions will involve oftentimes debates, so there’s a spirit of competition.
There’s one that I think it was developed by the interventional pathway that’s focused on the best interventional clinical trial of 2022, and it’s set up literally like a bracket where people are going to be presenting and the audience is going to be voting on it. There’s going to be tons of use of audience response. I don’t know if it’s exactly going to be like a phone-a-friend kind of situation, but one of the programs by the pediatric and congenital heart disease team is focused on the Family Feud-type design. If you’ve ever seen the show, it’s like a bunch of contestants on each of two teams competing against one another to test their knowledge.
And a lot of the survey says type of stuff to see if people know what the answer is to these types of difficult questions, so we’ll be really hoping that the audience pulls in as well and really help some of the contestants. These will be pretty difficult. There’s one that’s entitled Stump the Chump. I think this is going to be a real difficult clinical scenario with a very wise professorial moderator to see if they can crack the code on difficult clinical cases.
So I think this is just a little flavor for what you can expect at this room, but I would anticipate that it’s going to be really dynamic, really engaging and a lot of fun, and hopefully the stuff that people learn from these types of sessions, it’ll stick with you for a long time and you’ll be able to bring home this type of knowledge and really help to improve the care of the patients that you see when you get back home from New Orleans.
Dr. Jessie Holtzman: Incredible. Well, it sounds like a really innovative take on education and sounds like a lot of fun. I’ll be hitting the books in the next couple weeks to prepare myself. Wonderful. Dr. Berlacher, I just wanted to return to, you had both mentioned that a big part of ACC is the opportunity to network and meet other members of the cardiology community and grow stronger at the cardiology community. And I’m wondering, ACC Scientific Sessions is only three days, but the year is long. So how you recommend that fellows, fellows-in-training, cardiologists, et cetera, stay in touch throughout the year and remain involved in ACC?
Dr. Katie Berlacher: Great question. This is something that we try to highlight all the time but I think sometimes gets lost in the details as Doug has been talking about here. There’s a lot to consider when you’re going to the annual meeting and then all of a sudden you leave and you’re like, “Oh, shoot, how do I keep in touch with all of those awesome people that I just met?” Right? So there’s a number of different way and ACC is here for you in any way that works for you. So the biggest thing is to understand what ways you like to join communities.
I think first and foremost, if you’re going in person and even if you’re watching virtually, if there are people that you watch that are faculty or that are speaking or panelists and you think that they have something interesting to say and you want to talk to them more about that, you can certainly reach out to them. I think a lot of the reasons why faculty are chosen to be in ACC program is that they are approachable, that they are willing to talk to you. So I would highly recommend that you make those connections in that moment or shortly thereafter. Timing does matter in that point.
One of the greatest things though about ACC and some of the CLC with the sessions that are going on are the member sections. So there’s a ton of different member sections that are both pathophysiology based or subspecialty based such as an interventional section. But there are also stages of career member sections. So FIT, stage of career, early career member section, and other areas that maybe are not a subspecialty area within cardiology but are offshoots of things that we do. Things such as advocacy, things such as program directors and graduate medical education, those are all different member sections, and you can find the list of member sections on acc.org in the member area.
Join one of those. Those groups I think are a little bit smaller and easier to manage. And then they do things like webinars, gatherings, other sorts of specific emails to your interests. That’s a great way to do it. The other thing that I love to get involved with is your state chapter, and worldwide, if it is your country chapter. So both things are available if you are in the United States. Every single state has a state chapter and a governor of that chapter. You can contact that governor. Their job is to make you feel welcome and to involve you. So please do reach out to all of the governors. They are listed also online in all of those chapters. If you live outside of the United States, there are many countries that have ACC chapters. You can join those chapters and get involved.
Doug and I often went to people who are leaders in those chapters and in the member sections to help us choose what’s important when we think about planning the meeting every single year. So if you are involved in those things, it’s very likely that you’ll continue to be involved in other things in the college. And then last but not least, and I’m talking to the kings and queens of social media here, Jessie, you are one of them, is that you can connect on social media. I think Twitter and Instagram are the two ways that are done now, but this is a constantly evolving world, so my guess is it’ll be on TikTok and things that don’t even exist in the future to stay connected.
Dr. Jessie Holtzman: Incredible. So lots of ways to stay involved throughout the year, whether at the state level, the country level, the subchapters, lots of great ways to stay involved. Incredible. Well, I wanted to end with one final question, which is probably hard to choose among all the incredible things you both are doing. But what is the one thing that you are most looking forward to at ACC.23 this year?
Dr. Douglas Drachman: Well, one thing. It’s hard for me to say this one thing, but I think after spending a year-and-a-half in the planning of a meeting of this magnitude, I think we’re just so eager to see how everything works. There’s been so much deliberate planning going into so many aspects of it, whether it’s the science part, whether it’s the education part, whether it’s new types of educational classrooms, and certainly seeing the pipeline of the future of cardiology through the young scholars and internal medicine programs that’ll be there. There are just so many things.
I think for me, the ultimate one thing is just seeing people. I think being back together and having an in-person meeting where you get to reflect on all of the exciting developments, catch up and really have a sense of community, I think that’s what makes it all feel really, really special and really, honestly, it’s magical to be back together.
Dr. Katie Berlacher: Doug, I have to copy you. I know that we’re not supposed to do that and Jessie probably wants an original answer. But really it is the people, right? It’s the energy that the people have together. It’s the learning that we do together. It’s the mentoring and the coaching and the sponsoring and the joy. So maybe I’ll just say I most look forward to the joy that I know will happen because we are together as humans. That is what I really can’t wait for.
Dr. Jessie Holtzman: Well, as you know, ACC.23 is a highlight of the year for many of us CardioNerds, so we just want to extend an extremely large thank you and congratulations for everything that you do and for what is certainly going to be a memorable event for learning and networking. So thank you to you both for all of the work you’ve put in over the last few years for this.
Dr. Douglas Drachman: Thanks so much for having us. This has been fantastic. We’re so grateful to have the opportunity to speak with you all and look forward to seeing you there.