By Michael J. Katin, MD
Another ASTRO meeting has passed into history, and it would be appropriate for you to take time to reflect on what
distinguished this from the last five you attended. Since we are all dedicated to conquering cancer, consider what
major breakthroughs were revealed that will impact on the way you approach your patients and will result in a
dramatic improvement in their chance of cure.
That's right. Absolutely none.
There's nothing wrong with this, of course. Every profession has annual gatherings that purport to be for the purpose
of pushing out the edge of the envelope but are dripping with deja vu. If you were put into a holodeck recreation
of the 1996 meeting, could you truly tell the difference? It may be time to face reality and analyze the components
of our meetings to make them more pertinent.
1. Refresher courses--you should have learned this stuff in residency. If not, buy a book.
2. Plenary sessions--five years from now, how much of this information will still be thought to be true? And if
the material is mostly review, you should have paid more attention when you first heard it and don't have to go
2000 miles from home to see it again. For those who disagree and will go to them anyway, go ahead and schedule
these sessions opposite the Varian party and separate out the true diehards.
3. Vendors--the first of two main reasons to come to this meeting. Why go through the hypocrisy of closing the
display area during any parts of the sessions? This should be open 24/7.
4. Awards--you already know who's getting them. Why not make these like the Academy Awards, including showing film
clips of each nominee's work prior to the announcement of the winner?
5. Affairs--doing things that you couldn't get away with in your normal environment, keeping in mind that our President
can have more intense experiences while on the clock and in his workplace.
6. Job-hunting--the second main reason to come to the meeting. Where else can you see so many prospective employers
in person without stirring up suspicion from your current employer? Plus have the poignency of seeing your current
7. Getting even--with the other people in your group who screwed you into having to cover for them when they went
to ASTRO last year and you didn't.