A big decision needs to be made: At some programs, each resident can attend one academic conference during the 4 years of residency without having to present a poster or paper, all expenses paid. It may be toward the end of your tenure as a resident and time is running out to take advantage of the situation. You can “go big” and attend the largest radiology meeting out there- RSNA. On the other hand, you may want to “go small” and consider a subspecialty meeting to delve into your area of interest. Or, perhaps you want to check out the academic meeting and hobnob with the faculty at the largest academic meeting- the AUR. How do you make this difficult choice? Well, if you are in this enviable situation and need to make a decision, this article is for you!!!
“Going Big”- The RSNA
RSNA is the meeting that most radiology residents decide to attend. It is a meeting that has “something for everyone”, literally. Traditionally, the RSNA is by far the largest of all radiology meetings and covers every subspecialty within radiology. But this also presents a problem: how to you decide on what to attend when you are there? Because of the vast size of the conference, I would recommend that if you decide to go, you need a road map prior to arriving at the conference. Know what meetings, poster presentations, or other areas of interest you are going to attend prior to arriving. If you do not outline a plan prior to arriving, you will likely miss half of the more relevant, informative, and interesting presentations since the conference is so enormous and the different activities can be far, far away from one another.
In addition, if you are in the process of studying for the core examination and the timing is right to attend a conference, this may be the conference for you. There are usually loads of activities for residents including review courses that may be helpful for the resident scheduled to take his/her boards. Possibly even more important than the review course itself, you will also be able to network with other residents in a similar situation, giving you an opportunity to learn the best resources to study for examinations as well as learn about other programs throughout the country. In many practices, at least one attending from your group will be present at this conference. This also allows the resident to take advantage of the possibilities of dinners or other engagements scheduled with vendors.
The one big disadvantage of conference like this one: it tends to be a bit more impersonal than some of the smaller conferences that are available. For a radiology resident, this may not be an issue, depending on your fellow attendees and how you schedule your days.
“going small”- The Subspecialty Conference
My preference is this sort of conference. I usually attend the Society of Nuclear Medicine Conference every other year, an example of a particular subspecialty conference. I find that this sort of conference is the best for learning the intimate details of a particular subspecialty. The newest information in subspecialties tend to get presented for the first time in these sort of conferences.
If you are interested in a particular subspecialty and want to choose a fellowship in the area of the conference, going to these subspecialty meetings is often times the best method of networking to get to know the physicians in the subspecialty. These conferences offer this possibility because they are smaller and give more of a “feeling of camaraderie” since the members of the conference tend to be more involved in specific subspecialty activities.
AUR Meeting- The Academic Radiology Conference
Every year in our program, our chief resident is allowed to participate in this conference. It is a wonderful conference to find out the state of academic radiology throughout the country from a resident perspective as they have specific programs available for the chief residents. As a program director, I also tend to go to this conference once per year in order to keep up with the changes in radiology academics on a yearly basis.
In addition to the potential relevancy, the conference is not so large that you can to get lost in meeting like the RSNA. In fact, you can easily get to know the players in the academic world. I would highly recommend this conference if you are interested in academics or you are the chief resident in your residency program. Residents attending this conference obtain an invaluable source of information about all residency programs throughout the United States that they can share with their resident colleagues when they return.
The “Pure” Board Review/CME Conference
Lastly, there is the board review or CME conference. Usually, these conferences are dedicated to either board review or a specific topic/selection of topics. In our residency program, many residents attend local board review courses prior to taking the core exam. It is a good resource as a means to review the information learned from studying.
Other sorts of CME conference are also widely available throughout the United States and abroad. Typically, the attendees of these conferences are more likely to be fully trained radiologists who want to learn more about a particular subspecialty or area of interest and/or may want to travel to a particular destination. (I recently went to a conference at Disney World like this to learn about digital breast tomography!) That being said, the topics covered by these conferences are usually already present in some form or another in a radiology residency program, so the yield of this conference for a radiology resident may be slightly lower. From my experience, most trainees that attend these conferences are stationed at the institution responsible for the conference.
Summary Statement About Conferences During Residency
Like almost everything else in this world, one size does not fit all when deciding to attend a conference. RSNA is a good introduction to the world of conferences as it is the largest and the most general. Subspecialty conferences are great for networking, especially if you are interested in a fellowship or a particular subspecialty. The AUR meeting is an excellent options for academic sorts and chief residents. And finally, board reviews/CME conferences are a great tool to review studies for the boards/core examination. Lots of decisions to make and so little time… Hopefully, this article will give another perspective on how to make this big decision!