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How the sausage is made: An inside look at #DDW2021

AGA Council Chair Dr. Rhonda Souza joins our podcast for a look into the makings of Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) Virtual.
Small Talks, Big GI Topics
Small Talks, Big GI Topics

In this bonus episode of the Small Talk, Big Topics podcast, hosts Drs. Matthew Whitson and CS Tse are joined by AGA Council Chair Dr. Rhonda Souza to recap the 2021 virtual DDW conference. Rhonda is the co-director at Center for Esophageal Diseases at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas and co-director at the Center for Esophageal Research at Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, also in Dallas. Today, they dive into discussing the first ever virtual DDW conference.

To begin, Dr. Souza explains how the tech platform was chosen for the conference. The board ultimately wanted a platform on which conferences were pre-recorded to make the talks accessible for all time zones. There were over 10,000 registered attendees for this year’s virtual conference. As chair of AGA Council, Rhonda is responsible for overseeing the 13 individual AGA council sections. Each section has a chair and vice chair, who put together the educational offerings in each section umbrella. Listen as Rhonda continues to break down the different key roles in each section.

Planning for DDW 2021 began in June of the previous year. Given the COVID pandemic, the planning process for this year’s conference looked a little different. In fact, Dr. Souza says planning for next year is already underway. It’s likely to be a hybrid of virtual and in-person meetings. While virtual sessions have their advantages, many attendees are in agreement that the face-to-face aspect is irreplaceable.

Next, we get a look into an exciting talk featuring a keynote speaker from the makers of the Pfizer vaccine, who shared what it was like to develop the vaccine and discussed the learning lessons from the previous year. Additionally, there were new abstract descriptors and machine learning for AI and telehealth. Health care disparities and COVID-19 were new descriptors for the event as well. Then, she breaks down how newcomers can navigate the conference without being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of talks and attendees.

Dr. Souza anticipates that next year’s conference will implement creative networking opportunities. This year’s virtual networking center had its drawbacks, including limited timeframe access to colleagues’ information. However, she offers insight into how to get around these limitations and correspond with colleagues you admire. She believes there is no shame in chasing someone down and being upfront about wanting to work with them. However, when a meeting is established, it’s highly important you show up on time and be engaged in order to make the best impression possible.

Dr. Souza shares the most valuable advice she received from her own mentors. First, effective collaborations are a two-way street. Everyone has to gain something for the collaboration, or it won’t work. In closing, we hear how interested listeners can get involved with planning for DDW 2022, which could always use abstract reviewers. Additionally, the AGA Council are looking for topic suggestions, speakers and poster visitors. Visit the AGA website to find out more about the opportunities available. Reviewing abstracts is a great way for younger people to initiate themselves into the industry. 

Review, rate and subscribe to Small Talk, Big Topics wherever you get your podcasts. Don’t forget to watch out for Season 2! Have topic or guest ideas? Send them to [email protected]

Learn more about Dr. Rhonda Souza.
Follow Matthew on Twitter.
Follow CS on Twitter.
Follow AGA on Twitter.
Email at [email protected].

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