By Anna S. Lok, MD, FAASLD, AASLD President
As we all get ready for The Liver Meeting® 2017, I can’t help reminiscing about my first AASLD meeting in 1983 at the Marriott in Chicago. The concept of AASLD was conceived by a small group of friends hosted by Dr. Hans Popper in 1948 in a tiny room in Cook County Hospital in Chicago. I was in the pre-conception stage and did not attend those early meetings. While the early meetings were less structured, the discussions then were just as rigorous and authors were not informed who got selected to present until they arrived at the meeting. That meant everyone had to come prepared – no last minute changes to power point slides or ePosters, which were non-existent back then.
By 1983, The Liver Meeting® had grown and was more structured but there were less than 1000 participants, no parallel sessions, and no SIG programs. There were only a handful of exhibits – publishers with books on display, and a diagnostic company with kits for serologic diagnosis of hepatitis A and B. There were no evening satellite meetings as there weren’t any approved drugs for liver diseases. The meeting was held in one hotel and it was easy to bump into each other though I did not know anyone and no one knew me either.
Fast forward to 2017, we are expecting approximately 10,000 participants at this year’s meeting. The core program has greatly expanded with 39 parallel oral sessions (during which 246 abstracts will be presented) and more than 2000 posters reflecting the growth in research, knowledge and practice of hepatology. To allow the latest data to be presented in a timely manner we now have two late breaker oral sessions on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning and a late breaker poster session on Monday. Since 2010, we have added programs developed by SIGs. This year, there will be 15 SIG programs. These programs are developed by SIGs, providing our members with a forum to select topics of interest to them and for like minds to gather, exchange, network and collaborate.
Our membership has grown exponentially in the last five years, with the greatest increase in trainees and associate members. We now have a Trainee Day on Friday that consolidates the programs of greatest interest for our trainee members ending with an academic debate and a trainee reception. Be sure to stop by at the academic debate and watch our next generation of hepatologists pitch their viewpoints, and participate in the voting to decide which team gets to take the trophy home. Our Associates program has been highly successful, to the extent that the last few years our associate members have lamented that hepatologists are invading their programs, but this is a reflection of the high quality programs they put together.
We have revamped Tuesday’s program, moving poster and oral parallel sessions earlier because presenters on the last day told us they felt disheartened that the results of their hard work cannot be shared with a wider audience. These changes create room for three Debrief sessions which allow all of us to catch the most important findings presented at the meeting. With the proliferation of hepatology research, none of us, even those with wings, can manage to go to all the sessions in which we are interested. We are working on streamlining the start and end times of sessions so it will be easier to go to as many sessions as possible. Stay tuned.
Learning about the latest finding is important but just as important is catching up with friends and colleagues – be sure to join me at the Members’ reception Sunday night at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Safe travels and see you soon.