September, 2013

Brainy Nights in Georgia

By Michael J. Katin, MD

The 55th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology will be held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, September 22-25, 2013. After last year's experience with Hurricane Sandy, it would have been thought that the meeting would have been moved to Omaha, Nebraska, but at least it can be noted that the last major hurricane to affect Atlanta was nearly eighteen years ago. Regardless, travel insurance would probably be a consideration.

It would seem appropriate to have chosen Atlanta as the site of this year's meeting for a variety of reasons. First, the city is in the midst of a mayoralty election campaign, with incumbent Mayor Kasim Reed being challenged by Al Bartell, Qaqi El-Bey, and celebrity chef Paul Luna. The campaign is heating up toward election day, November 5, with accusations that Mayor Reed is tied to Coca-Cola, Arthur Blank, the Buckhead Coalition, and Tyler Perry, while Mr. Luna is tied to spaghetti ad oglio ed olio Thus far, Mayor Reed has raised $1,634,349.48 in campaign funds, which also happens to be $1,634,349.48 ahead of the other candidates, but the race is just warming up. A late surge by Mr. El-Bey or Mr. Luna could take attention away from the New York City mayoralty race, although we will expect Anthony Weiner to....I'm sorry, there's just absolutely no wording I can use that couldn't be interpreted as a double-entendre.

Another advantage of having the meeting at the end of September in Atlanta is that the Atlanta Police Foundation will be having its annual "Crime Is Toast " breakfast event right at that very same Georgia World Congress Center, on September 24, with addresses on the State of Public Safety by Mayor Reed and the State of the Force by Police Chief George N. Turner. This should be encouraging to ASTRO attendees, since Atlanta ranked 7th in the listing by CNN (based in Atlanta!) out of ten in its ranking of dangerous U.S. cities. Perhaps Kabul or Aleppo could be considered for next year's meeting. At least the meeting should be safe on the 24th.

The Atlanta area also allows fascinating activities in conjunction with the scientific and business events of ASTRO. Golfers can be accommodated at the world-famous Piedmont Driving Club, as long as a professional decorum is maintained. History buffs will want to tour the site of Andersonville prison, 121 miles from Atlanta, where Southern hospitality resulted in the deaths of nearly one-third of the Union prisoners held there in 1864 and 1865. They should also make sure to visit Stone Mountain, where the largest high relief carving in the world depicts Confederate States President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson , who bravely dedicated their talents to the cause of preserving slavery. It is anticipated that by the end of this year a smaller sculpture on the side of the mountain will be completed, honoring John Rocker, Michael Richards, and Paula Deen.

Nature aficionados will be in good shape, with the Georgia Aquarium and ZooAtlanta at their disposal. ASTRO attendees and their families will be able to see the only two currently alive whale sharks

in captivity in the United States, and can further stress them by suiting up and swimming next to them for only $224.95 plus tax. Zoo Atlanta is one of only four zoos in the United States to have giant pandas, and Lun Lun gave birth to twins on July 15!! You may enjoy seeing them while you wonder at what point the Chinese government, which maintains ownership of all the pandas and their progeny, gets totally fed up with us and recalls them, as well as wondering why it's called Zoo Atlanta instead of the Atlanta Zoo. Zoo Atlanta has also recently expanded its petting zoo to include previously restricted species -- the kids will love it!

Another advantage will be the abundance of speakers available for keynote presentations to the convention. One choice would be political activist Stacii Jae Johnson, who has been involved in local and national politics for years. She served as a major fundraiser for Hillary Clinton and then later for President Barack Obama, while keeping up an active career in show business. More recently, she has served as special events director for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed until her recent resignation. Another potential speaker would be famed comedian Jeff Foxworthy, born in nearly Hapeville, Georgia, and there's no question he would be able to tell who might be a radiation oncologist.*

Receptions are always important, and two places would stand out as options. The very first Waffle House is located in Decatur, Georgia, only 7.9 miles away. Try the grilled biscuits with sausage gravy and triple smothered hash browns -- only 280 calories, more or less! And it would be highly appropriate for radiation oncologists to hold a formal dinner at the Cobalt Lounge in Buckhead, originally made famous by being the site of an unfortunate incident following Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 but highly unlikely to have that repeated at ASTRO LV.

As you can see, it is expected that this year's ASTRO meeting will be one to be remembered, taking place in the city that is the 17th most sedentary in the country, 10th worst for public transportation, 9th worst city to live if you have asthma, and, overall, 10th most unhappy city in the United States. This is a city in which efforts are being made to upgrade the school system and enhance public safety. Our annual meeting will be enhanced by the fact that it is being held in this elegant state known for its tradition of rebellion, racism, and pellagra, with all of which it must be presumed ASTRO will want to be identified. This should be an enjoyable and productive meeting. Just don't wander too far away from the hotels.


* If the electric bill in your office is higher than your payroll....you might be a radiation oncologist!

    If someone mentions fiducials and you think about marker seeds instead of financial trusts...you might be a radiation oncologist!

    If you have more than four different answers when a patient asks, "Will I glow in the dark?" -- you might be a radiation oncologist!