Innovation at the Annual Meeting

June 8, 2011

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Dr. Bruce Sigsbee

Each year, the Annual Meeting evolves with new programs but also a new organization and emphasis. This year several new and innovative programs were very successful.

We all have had the experience that the role of neurologists is unknown or frequently confused with neurosurgery. Further, patients diagnosed with neurologic diseases are often bewildered and hungry for information. On the opening day of the Annual Meeting, the AAN held a Brain Health Fair in Honolulu to address both of these problems. Part of the program included general information about the nervous system. The Exhibit Hall included neurologists discussing the neurologic examination and focusing on specific elements, including the eyes. Experts gave talks on important neurologic disorders such as Alzheimer's and traumatic brain injury. The Hilton even provided 1,000 meals at no cost with recipes taken out of the new AAN "Navigating Smell and Taste Disorders" book for patients. The event was a huge success with more than 1,400 registered attendees.

Have you heard your colleagues comment that the Education Program at the AAN Annual Meeting is too basic? The AAN has developed an initiative referred to as Specialists in Focus. The program began last year with child neurology. The effort was well received and the initiative was extended to four subspecialties this year: cerebrovascular disease, movement disorders, epilepsy, and child neurology. The program includes two courses with advanced content, poster presentations, and platform presentations all in a day and a half. It is intended to be an efficient presentation of the subspecialty topic. The content is developed in most cases in concert with the appropriate subspecialty society. The intent is not to compete with the subspecialty meeting, but be a complement to the presentation and their meeting.

There also were a number of other innovations at the Annual Meeting, including providing breakfast and lunch to attendees, categorizing courses as two-hour, four-hour, and six-hour programs rather than courses at specific times such as breakfast seminars; morning exhibit hours; and a leadership course, among others. The evaluations are still being collated. We look forward to learning what worked for attendees, and where we can continue to improve the event.

Curiously, the comment is often made by general neurologists that the Annual Meeting is for subspecialists, the converse of the view often expressed by subspecialists. A general neurologist such as myself is looking for updates on a broad range of topics and the opportunity to take more in-depth courses in areas of subspecialty interest that not only include clinical material but new science as well. A key consideration is that the content can be attended in an efficient manner, minimizing the time away from practice. The content is there, but the organization needs some work. An effort is underway to improve the efficiency of the program.

The Meeting Management Committee and the staff continue to work to improve the meeting. The Education and Science Programs address the needs of many interests of AAN members. Your evaluations and suggestions are important to the constant improvements and innovation.

Bruce Sigsbee, MD, FAAN
President, AAN