The ACR 2019 Meeting — A Medical Student's Perspective
I first experienced ACR last year, and my time at the meeting convinced me that radiology was the right field for me. I knew immediately that I would want to come back this year, so as soon as I returned from ACR 2018, I started working on a project to submit for the poster session. As my third-year clerkships neared their end, I was looking forward to an opportunity to be immersed in my chosen field. Based on my previous meeting experience, I knew I would come away inspired. This year, I was especially excited for the new mentorship program. It did not disappoint. I was paired with a veteran attendee who helped me strategize to make the most of my time at the meeting.
The conference schedule was jam-packed with sessions covering a wide variety of subjects — from the corporatization of the field, to how AI might affect radiology, to the basics of MACRA and coding, and the current state of malpractice litigation involving gadolinium, all explained at an approachable level. One session from a radiologist and Wharton School professor was geared toward residents interviewing for jobs and fellowships but was just as applicable to those preparing for residency interviews. Networking can be intimidating or boring to many, but an excellent lecture on the topic gave useful tips to make it feel like a natural part of your day. Convocation was an impressive ceremony with even more impressive awardees. It was inspiring to hear the stories of individuals who had achieved so much in the field. Chatting at the reception following the ceremony, several residents and I agreed that these individuals were truly, “life goals.”
After noticing how many of students were in attendance, several members of the RFS took it upon themselves to pull together an impromptu medical student meet-up. They were eager to welcome us into the organization and to share their advice for the application process, interview season, and choosing a residency program. The fact that so many chose to take time out of their busy conference schedules for this — many of them skipping lunch to do so — spoke volumes about the inclusive culture of this community.
Another key element of the culture of the ACR is that the organization absolutely does not shy away from discussing difficult topics — and its leadership makes it very clear that they desire the participation of members with diverse opinions. One of my favorite sessions that demonstrated this was the Economics Forum. The format was five short debates on hot topics in radiology and health economics. Equal parts informative and entertaining, the result of these lively discussions was judged by applause. However, not all discussions were so lighthearted. During the open microphone session, the topic of gun violence was discussed and despite passionate opinions on either side, the conversation remained impressively professional and productive. The Diversity Forum lunch was titled, “MeToo Comes to Medicine: Transforming the Culture.” It was incredible to see a packed room — standing room only despite rolling in several additional tables for this topic, with just as many men in the audience as women. The ensuing discussion highlighted further areas in need of examination, including the intersectionality of race and gender — which was met with enthusiasm by the attendees.
What I’ve learned from participating in the ACR annual meeting for the past two years is the more you put yourself into it, the more you get out of it. Some of the most valuable moments of the conference occurred in between sessions or after the official meeting programming was finished for the day. The strict hierarchy that sometimes exists in the hospital feels as though its temporarily suspended for this brief time while residents and attendings are unencumbered by their clinical duties. In one day you might get a pep talk and high five by a member of the executive committee, receive interview advice from a resident, exchange a tweet with someone on the CSC, contribute to a Spotify playlist started by the chair, share a meal with a group of residents from across the country, and then play with some of the cutest honorary members — the children of ACR members who accompanied their parents!
My favorite part of this meeting is the fact that the interaction didn’t end once I boarded the plane to return home. I had the opportunity to form relationships with members of my local chapter of organized radiology and have made plans to stay involved at both the state and national levels. The radiology Twitter community also keeps the momentum going year-round. I’ve continued to meet new people after coming home. Alumni from my school have introduced themselves after noticing my account through their co-residents that I’ve met. I hope to see a lot of familiar faces on the interview trail this upcoming year — ones I’ve met in real life and virtually. To any medical student interested in radiology, I would highly recommend that you attend this meeting and participate in every aspect you possibly can. You’ll probably get very little sleep, but it’s so worth it. I’m certainly excited to continue developing relationships and learning at future meetings. I hope to see you at ACR 2020!
Chelsea Schmitt is a medical student at the USF Morsani College of Medicine.