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A Word From the President: A New Approach to Our Annual Meeting for a New Day in Health Care

AAMC Reporter July 2013

As we prepare for the ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, the nature of our work is changing. In education, we are preparing health professionals for team-based, collaborative practice. Health services research has emerged to ensure changes to our health care system are producing the desired results. And health care providers must be ready to receive the newly insured, while adapting to new payment and delivery models.

All of this is taking place against a backdrop of political uncertainty on the national stage. Federal support for physician training, the National Institutes of Health, and other programs vital to the work of academic medicine is under siege as lawmakers search for a solution to the nation’s fiscal problems.

Such a dynamic environment makes it vital that the academic medicine community be effective at managing change. That is why we are approaching the AAMC Annual Meeting differently, beginning this year.

Scheduled for November 1-6 in Philadelphia, the annual meeting is the largest gathering of academic medicine professionals—and one of the AAMC’s best opportunities to facilitate our shared journey into the future of health care. Our goal is to host nothing short of the signature event for all those in academic medicine—from aspiring physician to medical school dean—to shape the future of medical education, research, and patient care. We believe the changes we are implementing this year will make for an even better on-site experience and help you take what you learn back to your own campus.

The new approaches I outline below stem from your feedback and the recognition that it was time to align our annual meeting goals with the AAMC’s strategic framework. While the meeting garners very positive overall reviews, we heard from you that the sheer number of sessions could be overwhelming, our programming was siloed, and many session topics overlapped. You also expressed a need for more networking opportunities.

Under our new approach, the meeting will “kick off” officially on Saturday, November 2, with our AAMC Leadership Plenary Session. Here, AAMC Chair Valerie Williams, Ph.D., M.P.A., and I will welcome you to Philadelphia and our annual meeting. We hope this encourages more meeting participants to arrive on the same day to begin the meeting with a shared experience.

As a result, the keynote address will get the spotlight on Sunday. We are pleased that we will hear from two dynamic speakers. Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, co-hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, will share the stage for what is sure to be some fast-paced repartee and political and social perspectives.

A series of plenary speakers will explore this year’s meeting theme, “The Change Imperative,” through different lenses. Health care futurist and author Ian Morrison, Ph.D., will guide us through a discussion about tomorrow’s health care marketplace, while Daphne Koller, Ph.D., professor at Stanford University and co-founder of Coursera, will speak about online education and its effect on the future of medical education and research training. Adam Grant, Ph.D., author and professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, will offer his perspectives on how to drive organizational success by building a culture of contributors.

In addition to logistical changes, we also have made some subtle revisions to the meeting. You will notice more collaborative programming, with less focus on individual group professional development and information-sharing sessions. While those sessions still will have a place at the meeting, the solutions to our health care system’s most pressing challenges will come from diverse groups working together to achieve a shared vision. Looking ahead, the AAMC spring meetings will continue to allow individual affinity groups to dive deeply into issues specific to their work—something I know many of you value tremendously.

As I have written before, the work of University of Michigan scholar Scott Page, Ph.D., demonstrates that groups comprising a variety of perspectives and backgrounds fare better at problem-solving than homogenous ones. Who knows what innovations can spring from an encounter between a student affairs dean and a hospital administrator, or a basic science faculty member and a government relations representative? The annual meeting presents an incredible opportunity to foster exactly these kinds of cross-cutting discussions that will help break down professional silos, bring fresh perspective to the issues, and enhance the amount of peer-to-peer learning taking place at the meeting.

Keep in mind that part of the value of the annual meeting is to open a dialogue across disciplines at your own medical school or teaching hospital. To this end, we are encouraging you to take a team approach to this year’s meeting. After a successful pilot last year, we are pleased to offer our “Making the Most of the Annual Meeting” program on a broader scale by offering a registration discount for institutions that register as a team. Participating institutions will receive a toolkit with practical guidance and resources to help your team in Philadelphia and upon returning home. Talk to your dean or CEO about becoming a “Making the Most” institution. (For details, visit

In previous years, many of you told us tales of “dueling sessions,” often on similar issues concurrently taking place. We undertook an effort this year to avoid duplicative topics and standardize session durations. We believe these changes will make it easier for you to navigate the program and make the most of your time with us.

Finally, we are working to create experiences that model best practices in adult learning. There will be fewer traditional panel discussions and, where possible, room setups that facilitate interaction among participants. Instead, we will attempt to provide experiences that align with the science of how the adult brain naturally learns and include more group discussion and reflective thinking, with less lecture-style presentations. This will be an ongoing process that we refine for future meetings as the evidence on adult learning grows and we receive your feedback.

We look forward to a high-impact meeting in November, but recognize that the work of innovation is never complete. We will continue to try new things in 2014 and beyond. Your feedback will be vital to helping us shape future annual meetings. For more information or to register for the meeting, please visit I hope to see you in Philadelphia!

Darrell G. Kirch, M.D.

AAMC President and CEO