Author: Nicole Gentile, MD

As a first-time attendee, navigating Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) can be an overwhelming but exciting experience, especially since there are over 400 original presentations and over 4,000 posters. When I first attended DDW, I was an intern who had no idea of the vast opportunities available to me as a trainee. I found myself lost and unsure of which sessions to attend or how to prioritize my time. But as with all things in life, with time comes experience. Each time I have attended DDW, I have discovered pearls of wisdom that I would like to share with you in order to maximize your DDW experience.

For the Residents

If you are attending DDW as a resident, this is a wonderful time for you to network with GI fellows. For those of you who have a fellowship associated with your residency program I encourage you to contact the GI fellow(s). The GI fellow(s) can introduce you to fellows in other programs allowing you to learn more about potential programs you may want to apply to one day. If you already have an area of interest such as hepatology, IBD, etc., DDW may provide a networking opportunity and help open the doors for mentorship and future research collaboration.

One pearl of wisdom that I discovered as a resident is that it is not possible to attend every session at DDW, as multiple sessions occur simultaneously. I personally sought the advice of my research mentor and GI fellows at my institution for guidance on how to prioritize my time. In addition, it is best to look at the schedule ahead of time to familiarize yourself of the many different tracks and sessions available. If you are presenting research, I encourage you to attend sessions within your research interest.

Attention Fellows and Early-Career GIs

For those of you who are GI fellows or early-career GIs who are interested in exploring career opportunities, there is a career and recruitment center open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. I would especially encourage second-year GI fellows to consider this, as the recruitment center is offering professional review of your CV. The official DDW Career Fair will take place on Monday, May 8th from 3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. and allows you to meet with recruiters and explore practice opportunities. If you have already started your job search, ask the practices/hospitals you are interested in if they will be attending DDW. This provides an opportunity to meet outside of a formal job interview.  Moreover, there is also a Trainee and Young GI Lounge open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. that provides a location for fellows and early-career GI physicians to network.

Additionally, I would encourage GI fellows to attend a postgraduate course. They are offered by the AGA, AASLD, and ASGE (based on your area of interest as the most recent evidence based literature is presented). Personally, I have attended the AGA postgraduate course multiple times and look forward to this course each year.

Something for Everyone

For all attendees, I recommend allowing time in your schedule to view the Poster Hall. The Poster Hall is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. For those of you who may be presenting a poster, there is a dedicated time generally from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. that you will need to stand by your poster. This experience will help you to meet others in the field with similar interests.

My best advice prior to attending DDW is to organize and prioritize. The DDW Mobile App will help you to identify and lookup sessions. There is also a DDW Tech Connect area open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. if any help with the app is needed or questions with DDW On Demand Access or eposters. Unfortunately, there is simply not enough time to attend every session. Therefore, plan ahead for the sessions you truly want to attend and schedule meetings accordingly. For those of you interested in scholarly activity, as I have stated earlier, DDW may be a time to develop collaboration.

Lastly, remember to enjoy the meeting. The learning opportunities and networking possibilities are endless. Try to organize your schedule ahead of time and make the most of this amazing meeting. I look forward to seeing you there!

Dr. Gentile is the chief fellow with the University of Chicago NorthShore Gastroenterology program and has an academic interest in microscopic colitis.