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10 Key Virtual Medical Conferences in 2020

By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how scientific and medical meetings are taking place, but the switch from in-person events to virtual medical conferences in 2020 offers some significant benefits for participants. 

“The present crisis is an opportunity to reassess what is actually necessary and rebalance,” said David Steensma, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, on Twitter.

A virtual platform allows for more people to participate and learn new advances in their field at their convenience, without leaving their offices or homes. It extends educational options and often still provides for networking. 

The rise in virtual medical conferences may lead to ongoing hybrid events, with a mix of live and virtual content, suggest the authors of a MedEdPublish journal article about reimagining scientific meetings. For instance, the American College of Cardiology plans a virtual and live event in 2021. 

At a minimum, meetings will use more technology and extend traditional meetings, making them more accessible to people unable to travel. Additionally, physicians will not have to decide between one simultaneous session and another. They can watch both. 

Here are 10 of the top virtual medical conferences available this year:

American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society 

SLEEP 2020, the Academy’s 34th annual meeting, takes place virtually from August 27-30, 2020. The meeting will include evidence-based education about the science of sleep and the clinical practice of sleep medicine. The event will also have live networking events. Content will remain online for a year. 

American Association for Cancer Research

The cancer research association’s 2020 virtual medical conference, scheduled for June 22-24, offers plenary sessions, award lectures, symposia, educational sessions, methods workshops and mini symposia. The meeting abstracts are available to the public. 

American College of Cardiology/World College of Cardiology

The cardiology organizations have posted videos from their virtual conference, held earlier in 2020. The content includes information about clinical trials, visual abstracts and slide presentations.

American Diabetes Association

The ADA has placed more than 800 presentations, more than 200 sessions and lectures, with exhibitors’ information from its virtual medical conference on its website. The information is available free for a limited time, until mid-September 2020. “It is literally the most comprehensive assembly of experts and knowledge around diabetes in the world,” said Robert Gabbay, MD, PhD, chief scientific and medical officer at the ADA.

American Headache Society

The American Headache Society has taken its annual scientific meeting virtual, with everything from the opening remarks to information on treating headache during the COVID-19 pandemic. All of the sessions were recorded and are available on demand. The content will remain accessible for one year. Content is free to members of the society.

American Neurological Association

The American Neurological Association will premier its ANA2020 virtual meeting in October 2020. In addition to presentations and posters, ANA has planned virtual networking events and interactive workshops. Professional development courses will be designed for students and residents, early- and mid-career level physicians, and for university professors of neurology. ANA members can access the content for free.

American Psychiatric Association

More than 300 hours of education are available at the APA’s On Demand 2020 annual meeting. Content will continue to be added. Topics include child and community psychiatry, diversity and health equity, ethics, forensic psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, and global, political and social issues. There is a fee for the virtual conference. 

American Society of Clinical Oncology

The 2020 ASCO Virtual Education Program offers on-demand videos and slides for dozens of sessions on multiple tracks. It includes education and scientific presentations. It requires registration and charges a fee. 

American Urological Association

The AUA has created a virtual education experience instead of an in-person annual meeting. Additional programing will be added throughout the summer. The organization has posted abstracts for the best posters for kidney cancer, penile and testicular cancer and for infertility and sexual function. All content is free to members. Posters are available to everyone.  

International AIDS Conference

AIDS 2020 is another key virtual medical conference. The content includes 12 primary sessions, 27 workshops, 50 symposia, 62 abstract sessions, 10 pre-conferences and more than 70 satellite sessions. Several of the late-breaking abstracts are not available, but those that are offered present information about clinical trials, pre-exposure prophylaxis and safer sexual behavior. 

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