Traction with Interaction: ACC.16 Continues ‘More Learning, Less Lecturing’ Approach to Education

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Source: ACC15-Patient-Engagement-Pavilion.jpg - ACC 2015 patient engagement pavillion
The ACC.16 planners are bringing back the features attendees liked most about last year's meeting, including dedicated spaces for small-group interaction and learning, says Athena Poppas, MD, program chair. The moderated posters format piloted in 2015 delivered "a place where form and function met," she says. At ACC.16, attendees will find a variety of small, community-oriented “lounge-and-learn” spaces designed to promote discussion among members with common interests. Photos by Lagniappe Photography.

As the American College of Cardiology (ACC) prepares for its 65th Annual Scientific Sessions, to be held in Chicago, April 2-4, 2016, Program Chair Athena Poppas, MD, reflects on how today’s attendees learn and what they appreciate at in-person meetings. Here’s a preview of some ACC.16 highlights.

ACC.15 was the best-rated meeting in the College’s history. What did your committee learn from attendees’ feedback?

What we focused on last year was more learning and less lecturing. We said it so much it ended up becoming our tagline. We tried to inject that overarching goal into everything we did: at planning committee meetings, when we looked at new sessions, when we selected faculty. It reflected a new level of engagement and interactive learning. The changes we made in 2015 worked very well, and so we’re going to continue to build on that success.

Some of the structural changes we tried in 2015 didn’t work as well, such as putting the stage closer to the audience. At ACC.16, we’re going to look at the physical layout but keep the high level of interactivity, including dedicated time for audience response and questions as well as an easy electronic audience response system. When you can get so much online, interaction is why people go to a live meeting, so we’re going to capitalize on why people are there in person.

What is an example of “interactivity achieved” that attendees will see again this year?

Definitely the moderated posters. In the past, posters had been long corridors with gray poster-boards that didn’t really encourage interaction. The oral presentations were in dark rooms that no one went to. So, we did some moderated posters. I remember walking in and seeing the layout. I would describe them as nests where people could sit or stand in small groups with nothing between them and the presenter. It was exactly what we were trying to achieve: a place where form and function met.

We’re also bringing back the “lounge-and-learn” spaces that people appreciated at ACC.15. At a big meeting, one of the challenges is to provide places where people can hang out with like-minded people. We realized that’s the key to making a big meeting feel more personal, like a small meeting. In the past, the closest thing to this idea had been the faculty lounge, so last year we created seven of these areas. These are places where early-career members, nurses or people with different advance practice interest areas can get together. When we saw these laid out last year, we all just said, “Wow, that’s it!”

What innovations will be new at ACC.16?

Programmatically, we’re trying something new with our intensive, four-hour mini-courses. The concept is to delve into hot topics that overlap the various learning pathways. These are also ways to incubate new ways of teaching, such as TED-like talks, flipped classrooms, sending materials out to presenters before the meeting and having them teach the faculty what they’ve learned.

One of the new intensives at ACC.16 will focus on precision medicine. It will be co-chaired by Rhonda Cooper-DeHoff, PharmD, whose pharmacology perspective is especially relevant in this area. The other intensives will feature deep dives into women’s health; professionalism and leadership; and also what’s current and practical with lifestyle and nutrition. This latter intensive will feature debates with gurus of the major diets as well as questions about e-cigarettes, sex and stress.

Have there been any changes to the learning pathways?

The learning pathways are still the core of the meeting. Each one provides the most up-to-date science and clinical guidelines to help all providers keep abreast of advances and quickly apply new knowledge in their practice. These each have an oral abstract session of the best research, led off with a year-in-review lecture by a renowned expert and often one of the editors of our journals.

ACC.16 promotions promise to “disrupt” attendees’ thinking.What’s the plan for that? 

Disrupting our usual way of thinking is really the goal of education, isn’t it? We always thought you have to give 325 mg of aspirin, or you need to prescribe a year of dual antiplatelet therapy [after stenting]. The point of science and education is make us think differently about what we’ve always done. What we learn at ACC.16 might change the research we’re doing or alter for the better how we approach our patients.

Will we see patients on the podium at ACC.16?

This is one of the innovations we intend to continue from last year. Everybody loved it, and having patients and families there makes sure that their perspective isn’t just assumed. It’s real and present.