Rheumatologists in Texas and neighboring states have a handy resource at their disposal in STAR, the State of Texas Association of Rheumatologists. The association formed in response to a clear need for an annual meeting in Texas: At least four regional meetings organized by different people were taking place in the state every year. About six years ago, the stakeholders of those groups banded together, hired a management company and created STAR—then set out to put on a single, collaborative annual meeting.
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“The goal was to have a unified state society for rheumatologists,” explains Brian Loggins, a practice manager at Arthritis Associates, San Antonio, Texas. By all accounts, they’ve been successful in this mission. This year’s meeting took place Feb. 28–Mar. 1 in Houston and drew attendees from across Texas and Oklahoma. Since the first meeting in 2015 in Dallas, the schedule has evolved, and association membership and meeting attendance have both increased, Mr. Loggins says.
For 2020, the offerings included a top-notch clinical program, office manager education, a business meeting and an exhibit hall, and sponsored outings including breakfasts and dinners. The program was tailored to the variety of attendees, more than 520 in total, comprising 230 physicians, 35 practice managers and representatives from 60 exhibiting companies, says Jeanne Torbett, CMP, CMMM, executive director of STAR and an employee of Superior Media, Meetings & Management Inc. The event also featured a business meeting, part of which was dedicated to advocacy education, and a special meet-and-greet for the dozen or so fellows who were in attendance.
One of the key benefits of STAR’s meeting is the practical, clinical focus, says Matthew Mosbacker, MD, STAR president and a practicing rheumatologist at Arthritis Associates in San Antonio. “There is some basic science at our conference,” he says, but “most of it is very clinically based updates and pathology as it relates to your clinical acumen, so I think that’s why it’s so well received.”
Another perk of the meeting is the mix of attendees, which includes practice managers. In fact, the meeting hosted a special session for practice managers that covered such topics as compliance, new regulations and billing. The more than 30 office managers present this year more than doubled last year’s attendance, showing good growth and interest, Dr. Mosbacker says.
“The major goal is to have exceptional educational opportunities for our physicians, as well as their practice managers,” Ms. Torbett says. To plan STAR’s annual meetings, the organization’s board focuses on the most timely and relevant topics, with an eye toward new technologies and presentation formats. This year, for example, one speaker led the audience in a game of Jeopardy!