“The incredible thing about the technology is that you feel like you’re actually present in another place with other people. People who try it, say it’s different from anything they’ve ever experienced in their lives.” Those prophetic words were spoken by the innovator Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. I find them quite fitting for the time we find ourselves in! So, how do we make “The College” virtual Annual Meeting feel like participants are actually there?
First, thank you for the many emails, calls and texts that so many you have sent to me expressing gratitude and being supportive during the COVID pandemic. It is gratifying to know that the information and materials on the College’s COVID-19 resource page have been helpful to you during these times.
I must say, getting things done in an excellent way during the COVID crisis has truly been a team effort for the College! The staff and Executive Medical Director have worked tirelessly, mostly from home, including nights and weekends. President-elect Luz Fonacier, Vice President Mark Corbett and Treasurer Kathleen May have been fully engaged to ensure that we were not offering “one size fits all” solutions. The Board of Regents has been completely supportive. The Advocacy Council staff and officers, as well as the Education and Practice Management Committees, have worked diligently to produce incredible webinars. Webinars include:
- COVID-19 for the Allergist
- Practice Survival: Loans and Grants
- HR issues related to COVID-19
- Practice Survival During COVID-19
- Telemedicine and COVID-19 getting started
- Next steps: Moving your practice forward
Really, there are too many leaders to mention here. There is no “I” in team, and we have a great team at the College.
One of the hardest parts of the pandemic is the fact that we will have no opportunity for face-to-face meetings with colleagues from around the country and world in 2020 due to the virus. That factor made the decision to convert our meeting to a virtual-only format even more difficult. However, the safety of our members and faculty is paramount. There is no doubt we made the correct decision.
With that said, our virtual meeting is going to be absolutely incredible. Like Mark Zuckerberg said, what can be done virtually is simply amazing. The Annual Meeting Program Committee, led by Drs. David Stukus and Brian Kelly, is still working on final details, but here are a few examples of what you can expect. Just like at the live meeting, you will be able to choose from up to four different simultaneous programs, so there will be something for everyone! The award-winning Literature Review, for the first time ever, will be an event open to most members who are registered without an additional charge. Symposium sessions, plenary programs, posters and abstracts will be presented. We will have a virtual exhibit hall with a game and prizes, and even a virtual lobby where we you can visit with your colleagues. Like I said when we made the announcement, I’m excited about the virtual Annual Meeting! You can expect everything the College meeting is famous for from the comfort and safety of your home.
Through all of this, we know that things have been financially challenging for many of you. We hear you! I am proud that our Board of Regents voted unanimously to make our meeting free to all dues paying Fellows, Members, and Fellows-in-Training (FITs). Current FITs from international fellowship training programs will also be granted complimentary access.
I know it’s disappointing that we will not be able to meet in person in November, but this too will pass. We are optimistically looking forward to gathering in New Orleans live in November 2021.
As Mr. Zuckerberg said, technology will make virtual events like nothing you’ve ever experienced. We’re planning to utilize our virtual platform to its fullest to offer attendees an amazing meeting. The Annual Meeting website will be updated as information becomes available. Watch for registration to open next month. I hope you’ll plan to join our amazing faculty for the most important allergy meeting of the year from “The College” – virtually. Until next time…
J. Allen Meadows, MD, FACAAI