Every year plane loads of industry moguls, rising stars, prima donnas, journalists and hangers on make their way across the Atlantic for one of the most hyped events of the year.  Hotels and restaurants are booked months in advance, hair dressers and dry cleaners get busy and, unless you’re with industry, it can be hard to get a limo.

Like the Oscars, there’s a certain amount of hype and anticipation to every medical specialty’s Annual Scientific meeting.  It can also be hard to remember who featured last year…

Here’s a tongue in cheek look at a few reasons why.

1. Fatigue

Although many of us managed to absorb vast amounts of medical  information whilst in a state of constant sleep deprivation as  medical students, it is a much harder trick to pull off over the age of 30. 

Many of us don’t sleep well in hotels. The combined effect of a noisy air conditioning unit, noisy late night revelers  or hotel pillow related problems (one isn’t enough and two too many) can all conspire to interrupt a much needed mights sleep.

By 3.30am on the first day of a US based meeting, the average jet lagged European  delegate is wide awake, trying to avoid the temptation to turn on the television, iron some clothes, or risk their lives by going for a jog in their destination city’s deserted streets. 

By 5am, they are likely eyeing up the scientific programme, to see which of the (booked out) early morning ‘Meet the professor sessions’ they wish they’d remembered to book, and trying to stave off the urge to congregate (with all of the other Europeans)  outside the convention centre before it opens.

By midday, they will begin to feel like they do towards a long day at work;  – a certain ennui, fatigue and urgent desire to leave the building will overcome them. Of course this feeling improves over the coming days, only to replaced by conference fatigue (see section 2.). 

2. Socialising

The annual scientific meeting can be a unique opportunity to catch up with colleagues, many of whom are old friends. One could argue that a lot of the useful clinical nuggets at meetings are  shared in the course of those important social interactions, but it is those same gatherings that can distract us from the important matter of formal learning. Catching up on important family news, medical gossip and political shenanigans with colleagues can be enjoyable,  but can sometimes lead to gatherings OUTSIDE the convention centre – in coffee shops or in restaurants. Or even in hotel bars. 

3. Shopping

For those of us from overseas to a meeting each conference can also involves at least half a day spent desperately running around shopping malls or outlet stores to purchase items on the family shopping wish list (see section on Guilt below). 



4. Guilt

No conference would be complete without the distraction of feelings of guilt that accompanies the average delegate. Apart from the perennial guilt he or she feels from deserting their work colleagues or spouses and kids ( see above section on gifts), the convention is usually held in one of the world’s finest cities with lots to see. When out and about site-seeing a delegate is likely to be feeling guilty that they are not present in the convention centre. When sitting diligently in the convention centre they are also feeling guilty that they are not out sight seeing. Existential angst is not good for concentration and even the moral high ground of medical education cannot always sooth the troubled soul.



What do you think?


  1. muiris
  2. Peter Mas MOLLINEDO

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