Attending DDW from a Fellow’s Perspective

Remember your first day at college? That’s exactly how I felt the first time I went to DDW. I turned up with my best suit, tried to look like I knew everything and found that actually I hadn’t got a clue where to start. Well, that was my first DDW. So it’s good to see that AGA is helping this year with a networking session for young trainees.

Wipe your nose, sharpen your pencil and load up your apps: here are a few things I’ve learnt to make my DDW a great experience.

First tip, register for as much as you can before you get there to avoid the queues.

With registration out the way and with your badge of approval, you have to decide which “classes to take”. DDW has a mobile version of its MyDDW planner that makes it easy to search for sessions on your mobile. It will be available starting in early April so you can start planning before you even get to San Diego.

I look at the postgraduate courses and the clinical symposia as the “core curriculum.” They provide overall general knowledge that you will use again and are well worthwhile. The more advanced plenary sessions can be challenging. Unless I got curious by the title or wandered into the room by mistake, usually I’m there because I’d like to complete research or advanced practice in this area.

I meet my phys ed requirements with the GutRunners fun run, which is sponsored by ASGE and will take place this year on May 20, and the endoscopy hands-on exhibits. Easily intimidated by the older kids playing with their toys, I try to avoid the exhibit areas at peak time and go when I’m feeling like I need a stretch or the seventieth talk on Barrett’s still leaves me confused about screening!

Don’t forget geography! Take the opportunity to hear presentations from all over the world. There really are some inspiring speakers.

Ah lunchtime…I couldn’t be a gastroenterologist without mentioning food. Food seems in endless supply at DDW and as a Brit I’m still astonished at the portions. I try and eat local when I can so I guess the seafood is a must in San Diego.

Networking is important for professional growth and DDW events like AGA’s networking session are on hand to help this year. You should never be off your game; your most useful conversations might happen at the coffee shop so have your pitch ready! You can also network online by liking DDW on Facebook or following on Twitter (@DDWMeeting).

My advice for the poster session is to dip in and out. Be friendly and ask questions. The presenters are always going to be more nervous of you than you of them, keep your details quick to hand for that opportune moment.

It’s easy to want to do everything and I guarantee you will plan to do more than you manage. Don’t forget to leave time for those unexpected moments. You never know, they might be your next supervisor or your future spouse.

I hope you enjoy your time at DDW. Colour code and revise the programme if that’s who you are, or just go with the crowd and see what happens but remember, school days are the best days of your life!


Top Ten Tips for New Fellow Attendees

1. Travel light. It’s amazing how much extra paperwork you are given and what you will never read again.

2. Orientate to the venue and find out where the nearest coffee shops are!

3. The exhibition hall is a great way to try out the new endoscopy equipment and chat to staff. They may be able to help you with advice on using your current equipment and software.

4. Keep the abstract book! It’s a great reference for contacting people afterwards for questions, ideas and possible collaborations.

5. If you’re looking for new opportunities and projects, have a quick three-line summary in your head to use when meeting new contacts. Don’t forget your contact details!

6. In the larger lectures, if it’s not interesting you, leave. There is always the DDW DVD to catch up on what you missed. (No I’m not getting a commission!)

7. When picking your sessions to attend, plan an alternative session just in case the session doesn’t meet your expectations.

8. Check out the new mentoring session from AGA.

9. Don’t be put off things just because a colleague said it wasn’t good last year. What didn’t work for others may work for you.

10. If you have travelled far don’t forget to try and see the city! But take your badge off before you leave the conference!

Mathena Pavan, MD is a gastroenterology trainee who lives in London. She Tweets @mathena123.