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Remembering My First International Conference

February 2013
Monica Kraft, MD

Monica Kraft, MD

As we look forward to ATS 2013 in Philadelphia, many of our assemblies and committees are addressing how to get more young clinicians and scientists involved. Making the ATS International Conference experience valuable for these early career professionals is paramount, as they represent the next generation of members and leaders, as well as the future of our field.

When thinking about these younger members, I can’t help but reflect on my first conference and how I felt as a third-year resident at the Harbor-University of California–Los Angeles Medical Center.

My first conference was ATS 1990 in Boston. When I arrived, I was amazed and somewhat overwhelmed. I had attended other societies’ meetings, but none as large and comprehensive as the ATS IC.

I presented my abstract on exercise testing and sarcoidosis, which was the result of working closely with my UCLA and University of Southern California mentors, Kathy E. Sietsema, Karlman Wasserman, and Om Sharma. The feedback I received was insightful, and my mentors invited me to dine with them and other luminaries. This gave me a real sense of the personalities in our field, and I recognized the importance of the social aspect of the Society. It offers a kind of camaraderie that’s hard to replicate anywhere else.

I hadn’t started my fellowship yet and I wasn’t certain what my area of research was going to be, so I attended sessions on pulmonary physiology, among others. I didn’t know it at the time, but these sessions, along with my eventual interest in molecular biology, would ultimately inform my focus on translational research in airway disease.

The energy that I felt at this meeting prompted me to attend many more. In fact, since then I’ve attended every International Conference except ATS 1991, when I had to hold down the fort as a fellow in pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Colorado.

The more I attended these conferences, the more I became involved in the Society—including chairing the International Conference Committee. It’s been a deeply gratifying evolution, which is why I’ve encouraged my mentees to submit abstracts and increase their involvement in the Society.

Since I first attended, the conference has come leaps and bounds in terms of engaging younger members. And more is in store at ATS 2013 in Philadelphia.

ATS 2013 will recognize the first winner of the Young Investigator Award, which will be presented by the Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology Assembly. AJRCMB Editor-in-Chief Ken Adler, PhD, has been highlighting this initiative and studies by young investigators in the Red Journal.

The Members in Training and Transition Committee will again present the Fellows Track Symposium, a two-day course designed for fellows to maximize their educational experience at ATS 2013, and on the Road Map for Professionals in Transition and Training, a pocket booklet that highlights core sessions to help residents, fellows, post docs, and junior faculty navigate the conference.

Career and leadership development is a major focus this year. The Career Development Symposium: “Achieving Success in Academic Medicine During Uncertain Times” will cover identifying, applying for, and obtaining public (e.g. National Institutes of Health) and private (e.g. industry) funding.

The Center for Career Development will host workshops and provide a space for networking in addition to a welcoming event, the Career Development Exchange, which follows the Opening Ceremony on Saturday, May 18. And with its valued partners, the ATS will again be providing travel awards to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend.

The postgraduate course “Building Effective Teams and Implementing Change: Things We Need to Know and Should Have Learned a Long Time Ago” examines the complexity of the work environment and teaches the skills that are needed to transition to a leadership position. These skills include implementing change, building effective teams, dealing with difficult people, and job satisfaction.

The fellows section of the ATS 2013 website has more information on these and other activities to help newer attendees maximize the educational, career, and social opportunities the International Conference provides.

Lastly, we are thrilled that Gary Gibbons, MD, the new director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the NIH, will attend our meeting. He is very interested in meeting with trainees, which will definitely be on his agenda.

Like everyone else, these young professionals have to plan their time wisely. For 23 years, the ATS International Conference has been at the top of my list. With all that will be featured at ATS 2013, I’m confident that these younger attendees will leave Philadelphia in May feeling the same way.

Full registration for ATS 2013 is open and the Advance Program is now available online

Last Reviewed: September 2017