AHA's QCOR Conference Canceled Due to Baltimore Riots

Deborah Brauser

April 28, 2015

BALTIMORE, MD — Citing yesterday's escalating riots, looting, and other violence in Baltimore and uncertainty over whether the calm that finally came today will continue, the American Heart Association announced it has canceled its 2015 Quality of Care and Outcomes Research (QCOR) Scientific Sessions, which was scheduled to start in the city tomorrow.

AHA tweet on QCOR cancellation

"Your safety and well-being are our highest concerns," said the organization in a note emailed to attendees and posted on its website[1].

Maryland's governor declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard, while Baltimore's mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake set a weeklong curfew from 10 PM to 5 AM that is scheduled to go into effect tonight. That means the public must be off the streets during that time unless there's an emergency.

The protests followed the death of Freddie Gray, who died on April 19 from a spinal-cord injury he received while in police custody, and were seen as overall retaliation for recent police encounters around the country that have ended in death.

At the funeral of Gray held yesterday, Pastor Jamal Bryant called for justice but also peace after days of protests, according to the New York Times[2]. However, violence reached a crescendo yesterday and last night in the northwest Baltimore neighborhood where the funeral took place.

According to CNN[3], there were 202 arrests and 144 cars and 19 buildings set on fire, including a church and senior housing. Businesses were looted and police were pelted with rocks, bottles, and cinder blocks. Rioters cut the water hose local firefighters were trying to use to put out fires[4]

Although the violence had not reached downtown Baltimore, where the AHA office is located, the organization announced that its staff has been told to work from home "for the near future." AHA CEO Nancy Brown said in a statement that the organization is currently in discussions on how to handle registration fee refunds[1].

Because cancellation of the conference means cancellation of the scheduled presentations, the organization also announced that embargoes will be lifting for all abstracts at 5 PM eastern April 29 to coincide with their online publication in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Dr Salim S Virani (DeBakey Veterans Affairs Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX) was scheduled to present at the conference. He told heartwire from Medscape that although he understands why the cancellation had to happen, he is disappointed.

"This is something we need to take seriously and is thankfully not something that's very common," said Virani. "The good thing is that in this day and age we have a lot of media outlets. So hopefully the science will still get out."

On the other hand, "these meetings offer an open forum and place to meet face to face. I think we will lose out on an opportunity because a lot of researchers, like me, use these meetings to catch up with like-minded researchers, to learn a lot from others, and to find out where the field is moving in general."

He noted that, like most attendees, he will now need to cancel hotel reservations and airline tickets. "We're all just waiting to see what the fallout will be for our academic institutions and how reimbursements will be handled."

Still, Virani added that he had been following the news out of Baltimore and so when he received word of QCOR's cancellation, "I completely understood."

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