Each year, the ASCLS annual meeting brings together thousands of healthcare professionals. This year, they will converge on Chicago's Renaissance Hotel and McCormick Place Convention Center from July 21-25 for the 77th annual meeting and the ASCLS/AACC Clinical Laboratory Exposition.
This year, the association has shortened its meeting to help attendees during "trying economic times," but by the time the meeting, themed "A Global Connection," blows out of the Windy City, attendees will have heard about the latest research, seen the most cutting-edge technology and listened to the foremost experts discuss the hottest topics affecting their profession.
Changes in Store
"The biggest change is that we are now offering all of the educational sessions at the meeting as 60 minutes in length rather than 90 minutes," explained Joan Polancic, MSEd, CLS(NCA), director of education and planning at ASCLS.
"This change is in response to attendee comments we have received at past meetings. We have also rearranged the schedule to allow more time for attendees to visit the Clinical Lab Expo on Wednesday and Thursday," she said.
Additionally, the ASCLS Awards Ceremony has moved to early Thursday evening. The closing keynote session has moved from Saturday morning to Friday afternoon.
"We are still offering 3 days of scientific sessions that are directly applicable to the laboratorians' work and presented by laboratory experts. Many of the educational sessions will provide information on new testing information, how to reduce costs or deal with regulatory compliance issues," Polancic said.
In addition, ASCP is once again offering 3 full-day workshops on Tuesday, July 21.
Bill Hunt, MBA, CLS(NCA), administrative director, laboratory services, Pennsylvania Hospital of Philadelphia, is annual meeting steering committee chair. He is most proud of the number of members who came together to identify the issues concerning professional laboratory work and then identifying those the committee feels are the best speakers on these issues. "This was followed by a large number of volunteers who reached out to these speakers and 'fit' them into a very tight schedule," Hunt explained, adding the meeting always provides new information year over year.
"Whether you are 'new' to the profession or are seasoned, there is always new information. The ASCLS meeting is held with in conjunction with the Clinical Laboratory Exposition, the largest exhibit of laboratory products in the world. Our attendees come from multiple areas of the clinical laboratory, clinical laboratory students, laboratory administration and educators. Their synergy makes a real difference in the profession."
First Time Attendees
James Adams MT(ASCP)CM, medical technologist at Somerset (NJ) Medical Center, was advised to attend a national meeting several years ago but didn't have the resources to go.
"Now I do, so I decided to attend this year. I was also given a chance to represent my state. I am looking forward to seeing how ASCLS works on a national level. I am also looking forward to networking and representing New Jersey," Adams said.
"Last October, I traveled with a group of fellow clinical laboratory scientists to Russia and I will have a chance to see some of them again. In addition, I will be traveling to China with another group this November and will get a chance to meet them as well."
B.J. Anderson, lab director, Anchorage (AK) Neighborhood Health Center, will be attending the meeting for the first time as well.
"Our president-elect was not able to transition into the presidency this year and so I volunteered for the position. AK-CLSA encourages the chapter president to be one of the representatives for our state, and I am excited to be able to attend and represent Alaska."
Anderson said she enjoys the networking opportunities that occur at meetings. "It also seems someone you meet oftentimes becomes the next resource you need when tackling unfamiliar territory," she said. "I work in a community health center in which our testing is limited, and so I look forward to the opportunity of seeing new cutting-edge technology, research and development that occurs in other labs."
Hunt acknowledged that the cost of the meeting can be overwhelming in a downturned economy.
"Budgets are tight throughout healthcare. Administrators are looking for savings and where better than a group of professionals who are willing to share their experiences. There are people at the meeting who will describe approaches to autoverification, blood utilization, troponin in the point-of-care setting among many topics that may find real savings for your institution. On a personal note, with the largest exhibit hall in the world, I prescreen possible vendors of new equipment thus saving me time and saving my institution real dollars."
Polancic agreed, noting the association has been keenly aware of tightened travel budgets. "We know that in these adverse economic times, many travel and education budgets have been decreased and there is an increased emphasis on minimizing costs and creating a return on investment," she noted. "ASCLS has been mindful of this and we put together some tips on how to explain to an employer the return on investment that attendance at the ASCLS Annual Meeting can provide." To access, visit www.ascls.org/conferences/2009AM/getsupport.pdf.
"We know continuing education is important to laboratorians, not only to maintain certification but also education facilitates the acquisition of new skills and knowledge needed to increase productivity, quality and customer service. This is important not only to each person's laboratory but also to the patients each serves. We hope these tips help to justify attendance."
Matthew T. Patton (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of ADVANCE. Mark McGraw, associate editor at ADVANCE, contributed to this article.
ASCLS Annual Meeting Web Site