November 2002


By Michael J. Katin, MD

It's November again and for the normal population this signals the time for celebration of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the PC generic Holidays but is also the time for recognition of an annual special event. This, of course, is the whooping crane migration from Necedah National Wildllife Refuge in Wisconsin to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. This is a remarkable accomplishment, since very few of the whooping cranes can spell "Necedah," much less "Chassahowitzka," not to mention the ongoing problem of the male whooping cranes refusing to stop to ask directions. But since this column is supposed to address issues in the field of radiation oncology, instead we should recognize that this is also the time of year for the ASTRO annual meeting.

This year the meeting was in New Orleans, certainly a place with minimal distractions from the intense scientific progress being made in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. It is hoped that this attention to the business at hand can carry over to next year when the 2003 Annual Meeting is held in swinging Salt Lake City, Utah. Although every ASTRO meeting is an adventure, in terms of maneuvering with your colleagues to determine who can go and who gets stuck with covering the practice, and then in coordinating attendance at committee meetings and didactic sessions and still have the opportunity to seek out the appropriate vendors and feign interest convincingly enough to be invited to dinner. It's a challenge even when one has been doing this for a few years.

It's never fair to discuss a problem without offering a solution, and it became obvious in New Orleans. Immediately prior to the Annual Meeting there was the threat that Hurricane Lili was about to destroy Louisiana, calling into question the wisdom of hauling millions of dollars of equipment and displays to the Convention Center rather than saving time and effort and just dumping them directly into the Gulf of Mexico and eliminating the suspense. It turned out nothing happened but eventually blizzards, volcanos, or locusts may lead to cancellatin of the Annual Meeting, and this would be a tremendous setback to medical advancement. Ironically, right there in New Orleans were the remnants of the 1984 World's Fair, which, coincidentally, was held under the mayoralty of the very same Ernest N. Morial for whom the Convention Center is named. Whether is be New Orleans, Montreal, St. Louis, Osaka, Brussels, or Lisbon, relatively little is left in each city from the tremendous amount of work put into an exposition that lasted only a few months. It was after the 1964-65 New York World's Fair (not a World's Fair, strictly speaking, since it was denied the official franchise by the Bureau of International Expositions for coming too soon after the 1962 Seattle World's Fair and also having the audacity to try to keep the buildings together for two years instead of one summer) that Walt Disney came up with the idea to recycle the pavilions his organization had designed for General Electric, General Motors, and others, and put them into a permanent home as a tribute to the power of the multinational corporations, sorry, of the human spirit. This was called EPCOT, for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Mr. Disney died in 1966, 16 years before EPCOT opened, although the passage of time is probably difficult to appreciate when one is frozen at 320 degrees below zero.

Walt Disney was never wrong, and we need to learn from his example. Instead of worrying about getting a place to stay in Denver in 2005 before the big companies snarf up all the hotel rooms within walking distance, and whether your flight back will be postponed because of bankruptcy (yours or the airline's), and why you can't get to the session on treatment of desmoid tumors because you have to interview someone who has to get back to his University that afternoon, wouldn't it make more sense to have a permanent haven for our specialty in which the vendors' displays are always present, posters are always hanging, and, possibly, some of the top experts in our field are giving the same Meet the Professor sessions continuously. There would be no need to worry if you can't get there between October 20 and 25 since it's going on all year.

The logical name would be AstroWorld, but that could be a problem since Six Flags AstroWorld already exists in Houston. The solution would be to accept this as serendipity and locate our AstroWorld on the grounds of this already-existing theme park.*

email: mkatin@radiotherapy.com

*The suggestion for the name, "Big C World," has already been rejected by the ASTRO board.