My First ACR Meeting: A Reflection
I had the opportunity to attend my first ACR annual conference last week. The entire experience was overwhelming — from the sheer number of people to the parliamentary procedures that took place throughout the meeting. Though it is difficult to summarize the entire experience, an approach that views the event in broad categories is valuable in this respect. Networking, advocacy, business, and education were four areas of key focus.
- Networking. The ACR conference summons hundreds of people to Washington, D.C. There are opportunities to introduce yourself to people who may have interests that align with yours, people who you look up to, and colleagues you have never met. Both in-person and virtual opportunities for networking are available and being involved in both allows maximum outreach. The ACR and the AAWR partnered to create a “speed mentoring” event, where we spent ten minutes with individuals who are heavily involved with the ACR to discuss various topics — like getting involved with the ACR at a state level, or practical skills like negotiating a contract. On top of the structured networking, there was a layer of interaction happening online, the so-called “Twitter exchange,” which will help us keep in touch even after the meeting ends.
- Advocacy. On the days leading up to Hill Day, I started to hear buzz about advocacy and legislation that would be discussed on the Hill. The 20th anniversary of the RADPAC Gala, which took place at the National Cathedral, gave me a solid foundation to understand how impactful our incremental changes really can be. Hill Day arrived and I was tasked with discussing the PALS (Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screening) Act which allows continued access to screening mammography for women between the ages of 40 and 49. Even as a resident, I had an integral role in the proceedings. This experience was so rewarding because I came away feeling like I had truly made a difference for our patients.
- Business. The business of radiology is a foreign concept to me as I am still early in my training. While my focus is currently on the fundamental knowledge base required for the practice of radiology, I always strive to gain more real-world experience. Being involved in the ACR business meetings opened my eyes to the importance of the specific verbiage in our resolutions. We discussed changes like “nuclear medicine physician” versus “nuclear radiologist,” changing words from “should” to “may”. Learning about this entire process was really profound because such a variety of people were stepping up to the microphone to request changes — including a former Mount Auburn resident! In that moment, I realized that my voice matters, and I will strive to use it to advance our specialty and the care for our patients.
- Education. Education came not just in the form of lectures such as Ben Harder’s talk on the S. News & World Report hospital quality measures, or the RFS sessions on AI (artificial intelligence), but in every other aspect of the meeting as well. I learned about the elections process and what it takes to be elected to a position within the ACR, how resolutions are improved and changed from year to year, and what types of decisions are made at this meeting. Further, I learned how to network, the importance of being at the table, and how to take part in important conversations. These are neither skills that are written down, nor are they skills that can be learned passively. These skills, rather, must be learned by doing. These are the skills that will ultimately allow you to make the most meaningful contributions to the ACR, and provide the most benefit throughout your career.
Every moment of ACR 2019 was valuable. I learned, participated, and advocated for our patients. Even if you are not interested in policy or business, the ACR will directly affect the way that you practice. For these reasons, it is of utmost importance for all radiologists and especially residents to attend this meeting. This may have been my first ACR meeting, but it is only the beginning. I am so excited to attend ACR 2020 and hope to see all of you there.
Yasha Parikh, MD, is radiology resident at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass.