Roadmap for a First Presentation at a Major Meeting

Interviewer: Melissa Walton-Shirley, MD; Interviewee: Sheila Sahni MD


August 11, 2017

Melissa Walton-Shirley, MD: Hello. I am Melissa Walton-Shirley on for Medscape, and we are here today with Dr Sheila Sahni. I am so excited to get the opportunity to interview her. She was able to give a talk today [at the American College of Cardiology 2017 Scientific Sessions] in a core-curriculum session on Revascularization in Special Populations.[1]

Sheila Sahni, MD: Yes.

Dr Walton-Shirley: Just a little bit on your background. You are an interventional cardiology fellow at [the University of California, Los Angeles] UCLA. You were chief fellow there last year.

Dr Sahni: Yes.

Dr Walton-Shirley: You did your internship and residency at Mount Sinai. I want to ask you a little bit about this presentation. How did it come to be that you were asked to present on this Left Main session?

They invited me on Twitter for this core curriculum session.

Social Media Start

Dr Sahni: It is a very nice story. I can tell you that the American College of Cardiology has wonderful programs, and I have been coming to the legislative conference. Despite living in Los Angeles, I came on a travel grant for about 2 years. Somebody in my advocacy sessions recommended that I apply for the emerging-advocates program and through that program I was able to develop a project. I heard a session at the ACC Heart House conference on the social media channels of ACC and I came back with my mentor at UCLA, Dr Karol Watson, my program director.

Dr Walton-Shirley: I know Karol.

Dr Sahni: She is wonderful. She said, you want to do this? Let us do this together. She invited me to do a national Twitter chat on heart health, I loved it, and I enjoyed using social media for disease awareness and prevention. I roped that into my emerging-advocates project. I discussed it with Rajesh V Swaminathan —he is an interventional cardiologist now at Duke but was at Cornell at the time. We had a coffee-shop meeting, I told him, and he was running the emerging-advocates program and he said, go with it. Do it in this direction. I was invited to give the session at a legislative conference on using social media for advocacy. Dr John Erwin and Dr Laxmi Mehta heard me speak at that session. Dr John Erwin was part of the panel and he said we have to give this girl a session. Dr Mehta said yes. They invited me on Twitter for this core-curriculum session.

Dr Walton-Shirley: Another perk for social media. I know John; we tweet back and forth all the time. Tell me, did you have any anxiety about doing this presentation? Was this your first formal presentation at a national meeting?

Dr Sahni: I did an oral presentation for an abstract at a nuclear cardiology meeting in Amsterdam as a medical resident. This was my first oral presentation. This was different because I was not presenting my science, I was presenting at a core-curriculum session. Knowing my audience was something I wanted to prepare for ahead of time. It is hard, because I am positioned as an interventional cardiologist, now 3 months away from graduating, and how do you speak about left main disease, especially when there is so much to cover in the history with the past 50 years of interventional cardiology, trying to compete with CABG and the era of EXCEL and NOBLE? Even the technique in the cath lab needs a whole session. Putting that together gave me a lot of anxiety.

Dr Roxana Mehran, a mentor, was my moderator, Dr Cindy Grines sat next to me and gave the talk preceding me, so that was intimidating.

The last 2 weeks is when I really pulled it together.

Finding Time, Getting Help

Dr Walton-Shirley: Did you have any consternation about time management? I have been there, done that, fellowship with husband, children. It is really difficult. Even now when I am asked to speak it is tough trying to get the slides made, reviewed, trying to get them to the speaker-ready area, on top of all the rest of the work that you have to do that day. Did you have any time-management issues at all?

Dr Sahni: So many time-management issues. I am in a program where I am on call every other day, but I have a very supportive cofellow and a very supportive program director, and all my faculty are very supportive. I opened the discussion about this left main talk very early. I would say ever since I was invited I started talking about it with colleagues: "I am going to give this session. What is your opinion?" I would use my time at meetings to start developing my concept and knowing my audience because I am presenting at ACC and not an interventional meeting. I started early, but I would say, the last 2 weeks is when I really pulled it together in terms of the slides. I had to figure out how I was going to manage the presentation. I timed myself, but I also worked with mentors at UCLA to work through my slides to know what I should eliminate. I learned that less is more and that for a 25-minute talk, you should have no more than 40 slides at most.

Dr Walton-Shirley: Sometimes it helps if you anticipate what some of the audience questions might be. Were you surprised by some of the audience questions, or was it about what you anticipated?

Dr Sahni: I was actually concerned as to what my moderator would ask, and she was lovely and actually enjoyed my talk. I did not think about what the audience was going to ask me until somebody stood up and asked a question and then I worried that they might start asking about bifurcation techniques. I put a disclaimer at the end that I am an interventional fellow speaking on this topic. That was something I was very sensitive to.

There are a lot of big leaders who have run major trials, with technical expertise in this field, and that was not the angle I was trying to come with. I enjoyed the questions. One of them was about revascularization in diabetics and I am glad they brought that up in the left main session and not the diabetic session. I did anticipate some, but I think knowing your talk really well and knowing the data surrounding it, even if you cannot discuss it, is helpful.

Anxiety About Technical Failures

Dr Walton-Shirley: What I fear is that I am going to get up there and my slides will not work. Did you think about that?

Dr Sahni: Yes. I must have asked the speaker-ready room person so many times—are you sure it will work? How is it going to look? ACC did a really great job of setting up the platform. There were multiple screens and that was something that caught me off guard. I did not know if I should look at the screen in front of me, to the side of me, or the computer right there. I would say that throughout the talk I looked at multiple different screens.

Dr Walton-Shirley: Sure, and there are the ACC talks that are up and coming where you are supposed to walk out and migrate onto the stage and it is supposed to be so informal. That is fun too, and that is a whole different slant. Would you do it again?

Dr Sahni: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Dr Walton-Shirley: I can tell. Enthusiastic. Well, Dr Sheila Sahni, thank you so much for joining us today on on Medscape. I really enjoyed talking with you. She is a rising star. We cannot wait to watch to see what she does next. Thank you.

Dr Sahni: Thank you.


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