The annual ACR State-of-the-Art (SOTA) Clinical Symposium came highly endorsed by previous fellows; therefore, upon receiving the invitation for the Fellows-in-Training (FIT) scholarship, I did not hesitate to apply. Further, the meeting was going to be held in the spring in Chi Town!
Meticulously, I made arrangements with six hundred scholarship dollars at my disposal. That meant arriving in Chicago at 6:45 a.m. from Atlanta, thanks to the CST one-hour gain, then heading straight to the meeting at 8:00 a.m. to stretch my budget by saving on one night’s stay. Although I had dreaded getting tired throughout the day, the TED Talk-like FIT program speakers were phenomenal, and there was never a dull moment.
Morning topics comprised various aspects of career choices and contract negotiations in academic, private practice and industry settings. These were very informative and prime for me, having just gone through my first rheumatology job search and still quite on edge. I kept mental checks of what I had done or failed to do during the process. Needless to say, it gave me fodder for thought and equipped me for one more chance to negotiate. Later, during the evening social, I made friends with some first-year fellows and ruminated on how this program prepared them well in advance for their career decision-making process. The session on consultative medicine was very effective in communicating how to overcome obstacles to facilitate teaching residents and reinforcing good teaching principles that would stay with us forever. The roundtable discussions were like musical chairs as we shuttled around different tables conversing about how to prepare for boards, balancing work and family life, and careers in private practice and academics.
In the afternoon, the variety of presentations kept everyone actively involved, learning through potpourri cases, pediatric rheumatology highlights, advocacy, immunodeficiency and autoimmunity. Finally, we had breakout sessions that included overviews on must-know dermatological conditions, teaching effectiveness on consult service along with demonstrations, and hands-on joint, neurological and scleroderma skin scoring examinations with experts and actual patients.
The meeting format provided time to mingle and network with other rheumatologists. From sitting down for breakfast to chatting during breaks, I met colleagues who were willing to offer advice or just chuckle and laugh about different things, including the lack of a laser pointer! The following day and a half amazingly covered many topics in depth. These included stem cell research in scleroderma, RA therapies, OA, lupus, statin myopathy, paraneoplastic syndromes, infections in rheumatic diseases, Paget’s, imaging, pulmonary hypertension, ILD, pulmonary toxicity of rheumatic therapies, spondyloathropathies, inflammatory eye disease and vasculitis.