Awesome Tips for Navigating ASCO and Chicago

Sheetal Kircher, MD


May 23, 2016

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Welcome to Medscape Oncology. I'm Sheetal Kircher, a medical oncologist at Northwestern University in Chicago. This is a continuation of a series about topics relating to junior faculty.

As June approaches, we all know what that means: It's time for ASCO (annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology). The focus of this video is tips on navigating ASCO, as well as how to enjoy Chicago. I'm a native of Chicago. I've been here my whole life except for some brief stints away for training, so I love the city and it's exciting to have ASCO here.

Tips on Navigating ASCO

I love ASCO. The sheer volume of ASCO is both intimidating and exciting. The energy at ASCO, the 30,000 people who descend upon the city all for a collective goal—and that's the topic of this year's meeting, which is called "Collective Wisdom." That really is the true essence of ASCO. As you look around, you'll see academic physicians, nurses, all sorts of healthcare providers, as well as industry and pharma and all stakeholders involved, all with a common goal: putting their collective wisdom together to improve patient care. I It's exciting and inspiring. Actually, every time I'm at ASCO, I leave ready to bring my patients the advances that I've learned about. I always have mixed feelings when I go to the sessions: I'm excited about the advancements and really hope that we can do better.

What I want to do is first talk about how to navigate ASCO. I've got three main tips:

Plan ahead. There are over 100 educational sessions and 100 scientific sessions; there's no way you're going to get through it unless you've planned ahead. The ASCO website is amazing. I don't know how you can plan your trip without it. There's also an app in which you can pick all the sessions that you wish to attend. There's no way to go to them all, so you've got to pick and choose, but there's really something for everybody, whether it be scientific, educational, or even the business of oncology.

Network One of the most exciting things I find about ASCO is not only the scientific sessions, but also the networking. If you look around, there are people with different perspectives and colleagues you haven't seen in a long time, so this is a great opportunity to spend time with each other, learn from each other, and think of new ideas. These networking meetings can be set up ahead of time, but there's nothing better than just sitting down and looking over to the person next to you and talking about where they are, where they practice, and their thoughts about the sessions.

Go to the plenary session. It's a bit overwhelming when you're trying to plan what to go to, but I would have to recommend always going to the plenary session. I love the plenary session. I'm specifically a gastrointestinal oncologist, but by no means does it need to be a gastrointestinal topic in order for it to be exciting. The rooms are packed with over 30,000 of your colleagues all hearing the latest, greatest, science-breaking advancements, so hearing the gasps in the room as the data are presented is exciting and inspiring. So, I highly recommend—no matter what you do—making it to the plenary session.

Tips for Enjoying Chicago

Once the meeting is over or you've had enough for the day, enjoying Chicago is what you should do. It's an awesome city. I hope the weather holds out for all of us because Chicago in June is the place to be. We've all been cooped up in our houses in the cold for about 6 months, so Chicagoans love the summer. They'll be out and about. You've really got to enjoy it.

Stay an extra day. Staying an extra day is always great. It'll give you time to visit our museums: the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum of Natural History, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and the Art Institute of Chicago. They're all world-class. They do take a few hours to get through, so probably an extra day is what would let you best enjoy them.

Go to the lake and river. The lake is beautiful. You'll be able to see it from McCormick Place, but if you really want to get a good view, go to Navy Pier—where it's pretty touristy but a beautiful view—or if you walk along Lake Shore Drive, one of my favorite spots is near Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium; it's a small picnic area, so it's a beautiful place to enjoy the city.

Another great place to enjoy is the Chicago River. There's a great architectural tour; I've been on it a million times, and it really gives you the history of all of the buildings of Chicago, which really is a fun time.

Eat. The third (and I would say the most important) part of enjoying Chicago is the food. All of the networking can extend beyond the meeting as you grab a couple friends and go enjoy the city. There's something for everyone. Chicago is famous for pizza, so anything from Giordano's, Gino's East, Lou Malnati's—you'll get a great Chicago pizza. If you want some fine dining, there are chefs everywhere. I would recommend having your hotel downtown, getting out, and enjoying the night while you're here in the city.

Enjoy ASCO, learn a lot, and we'll all come back better and ready to take care of our patients. Thanks.


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