It’s not a surprise, but here’s the announcement. We’re going virtual for the April meeting.

COVID-19 cases are peaking – again – from coast to coast. Two days ago, there were more than 170,000 new coronavirus cases in the US, and more than 1,900 deaths. Yet again, we’re seeing our hospitals overwhelmed, our staff stretched, and our patients with cancer suffering, as medical resources are devoted to fighting the disease.

This is not the time to fly to San Francisco and join large crowds in hotel conference halls. Once the virus numbers began to surge a few weeks ago, the writing was on the wall. We’re staying home and hopefully staying safe.

I am worried about losing irreplaceable in-person connections. They drive science and enhance collaborative efforts. But there are also upsides to the world of WebEx. More people can join in. Members can watch sessions after they occur, at more convenient times. We can minimize overlapping sessions, allowing you to attend a variety of committee meetings more easily. A survey conducted after our virtual fall meeting showed that almost 30 percent of respondents said they don’t typically attend our face-to-face group meetings. That’s a huge increase in participation! With no travel expenses, no or less time off work, and no conference fees, we saw a big boost in meeting attendance – especially among linchpin members like nurses and clinical research associates.

Thanks to that survey, we’re proceeding with spring planning, based on your feedback:

  • First, we’re stretching the spring meeting over the course of an entire week – April 19-24. Mark your calendars! The two extra days should provide some breathing room in the schedule and allow more of you to attend the sessions you want to.
     
  • A lot of you also reported that four-hour committee meetings aren’t cutting it. So, we’re asking committee chairs to cut that time in half. They can schedule up to a two-hour general committee meeting, with a separate two-hour block for working groups.
     
  • We heard you, too, about the plenaries. In April, we’ll keep the general plenary and bring back the translational medicine plenary. Both plenaries, however, will only last an hour. A shorter meeting is a more effective meeting when conducted online.
  • The highest-scoring item from the member survey was the expanded fall meeting agenda book, which included updates from all our disease and research support committee chairs. We’ll be bringing that feature back.
  • Ditto the special group meeting website – it also ranked high in the survey and so we’ll be sure to build something similar, or even better.
     
  • Committee chairs got high marks for setting clear meeting goals – and reaching those goals. But we also heard that members wanted more engagement like Q+A, break out rooms, polls, and plain old non-muted conversation. We’ll keep encouraging interaction, and continue to provide the extra support it requires.

When the threat of COVID recedes, we’re likely to still hold some sort of hybrid meeting – bringing back the in-person sessions but having some meetings stream live so members and would-be members can take part in the exciting work of this group. For now, thanks for hanging in there with us. And stay safe this Thanksgiving. We’re grateful for you.

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