Written By: Lea Ann Chen, MD

It’s that time of the year again: Digestive Disease Week (DDW®)! This event evolved out of the AGA annual meetings and was first advertised as DDW in the January 1969 issue of Gastroenterology. Since that time, it has grown into a truly international event with over 14,000 attendees, 41% of whom attend from abroad.

DDW is a collaborative event that is jointly sponsored by four professional GI/hepatology-related societies – AGA, AASLD, ASGE and SSAT. The conference topics cover the gamut of GI and hepatology conditions and participants represent all types of professional settings, including private practice (37%), hospitals (33%), and academic medical centers (28%). Whether you’re a first-time attendee or a seasoned participant, DDW offers something for everyone. Below are some tips on how to maximize the benefits of your attendance:

Plan Ahead

Is there a new treatment or condition you’ve wanted to learn more about? Are you interested in testing the latest endoscopic devices or learning a new procedural technique? Experts from around the world come to DDW to showcase the latest developments in GI. However, with over 5,000 abstracts and lectures and almost 300 exhibition booths, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the offerings. To make the most of your experience, plan ahead.

In the months prior to the conference, visit the DDW website to download the DDW Preliminary Program. Pick out your can’t-miss lectures and events, and put them on your calendar right away. As DDW approaches, invitations from colleagues, societies, and industry grow, so preplanning is a necessity.

Approximately one month before DDW, the DDW Mobile App will become available for free download in the Apple and Google Play stores. You can highlight events of interest and place them on a personalized calendar. Allow for push notifications to get the latest updates and schedule changes throughout the event. In addition, the in-app maps of the venue are a fantastic way to locate where scheduled events will take place. Try to attend talks that are located close to one another. The conference center is expansive and you may miss your intended presentations by trying to catch overlapping sessions situated far from each other. If you prefer planning on a desktop or laptop, use the DDW Online Planner to create your schedule. The information can then be synced to your mobile device through the app.

Upon arrival, be sure to pick up your attendee conference bag. Before recycling the contents, look for any product theaters, satellite symposia, exhibitor booths, or other advertised activities you may want to add to your schedule.

Practical tips

1) Register ahead of time and pick up your conference bag during off-hours to avoid long lines.

2) Book your hotel early. Most have generous cancellation policies. Registration is required before booking housing.

3) Pack comfortable shoes and dress in layers to accommodate both unpredictable weather and indoor climate control.

Make New Connections and Nurture Old Ones

Is your professional hero giving a talk? Are you looking to land your first job or make a move? Do you need some face time with a mentor outside your institution? DDW is a wonderful opportunity to connect with advisers and possible employers as well as potential and established collaborators. Schedules fill up quickly though, so try your best to email requests for meetings well ahead of time. The app also has a messaging feature you can use to communicate with other attendees.

At the meeting, be an active participant and ask questions. One of the greatest benefits of attending the conference is the opportunity to interact with others. For trainees and early career attendees, DDW is your debutante ball! Introduce yourself and your work to the broader GI community. Bring your business cards as well as a notebook to write down questions and comments about your study. Look engaging when standing by your poster and offer to walk visitors through your research. There will also be an opportunity to have free headshots taken in the Early Career area this year.

Also take advantage of DDW’s big draw to reconnect with old friends and colleagues from around the U.S. and the world. Schedule a time to catch up and swap stories. Learn from each other’s successes and mistakes. It’s good for the soul and your career.

Post-DDW

Attending DDW is only the start! The most important part of the conference is what happens afterward. Send an email to individuals you met to establish a line of communication and thank them for their advice or insight. Did someone offer to share a protocol, start a collaboration, or introduce you to a colleague? Take them up on the offer! Notes that were taken in the app can also be emailed. In addition, registration includes two years of access to DDW On Demand, an online library of sessions. If there were any nonticketed presentations that you missed, you can watch them upon your return. Similarly, access missed posters at the DDW ePosters archive, where you can read poster abstracts and view ePosters, if submitted. Abstracts will still be viewable through the app and online planner as well. Reach out to colleagues if you have questions about their work!

Also, don’t forget to take what you learned back to your community. Share your new knowledge with your colleagues and trainees, and consider if there are any new concepts or approaches that should be implemented in your practice.

Practical Tip

Before it falls off your radar, submit for CME credits for the sessions you attended. To claim CME, you may flag sessions for CME using the DDW Mobile App, visit a CME kiosk on site or access the DDW CME Claim Site after the meeting. Visit the DDW website for more information on claiming CME.

Refine, Refocus and Recharge

DDW is the most comprehensive GI event in the world. Take advantage of the learning opportunities to improve your own work. Note how the landscape of GI is evolving and use it to reevaluate your own career development strategy and how you want to contribute to the field. Most importantly, get inspired. After exploring the most up-to-date advances and connecting with colleagues and thought leaders at DDW, you will hopefully return to your home institution feeling reinvigorated, refreshed, and ready to apply your newfound insights to your patient care or to your research.

See you at DDW!

About Dr. Chen

Lea Ann Chen, MD, is an assistant professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. She completed her gastroenterology fellowship at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, her internal medicine training at the Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC, and her medical degree at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research is focused on the role of the gut microbiome in inflammatory bowel disease, and her work has been supported by sources such as the American College of Gastroenterology, the Colton Family Scholar award, the New York Crohn’s Foundation, and the AGA-Takeda Pharmaceuticals International Research Scholar Award in Gut Microbiome Research.

Dr. Chen is a member of the NYU Human Microbiome Program and serves on the editorial board of the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. She has received several distinctions, including the Daniel Ford National Housestaff Research Award, the Salix Fellowship to Leadership Award, and the Sherman Emerging Leader Prize for Excellence in Crohn’s and Colitis.