Networking at medical conferences can be ‘so important’ for early-career oncologists
For many in oncology, attending medical conferences is essential to stay up to speed on the latest treatment advances and research. But for one early-career oncologist, attending one meeting was also career changing.
Andrea Anampa-Guzmán used her savings to attend her first-ever ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition in 2019. Although she was attending medical school in Peru at Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, she had taken a break to participate in a clinical rotation in Buffalo, New York.
“I was already in the U.S. and happened to have a break during the time of meeting. I had never attended before and was interested in lymphoma research, so I made the investment and attended,” Anampa-Guzmán said during an interview with Healio.
It was at that 2019 meeting that she met her mentor, Ariela L. Marshall, MD, director of the Women’s Hemostasis and Thrombosis Program at Penn Medicine, for the first time in person.
“I had previously met Dr. Marshall through email and social media but never in person,” Anampa-Guzmán said. “I asked if she was attending the meeting and she said yes, so I decided to stop into one of her talks and say hello face to face.”
Anampa-Guzmán also attended the ASH Networking Reception for Women in Hematology and met Pallawi Torka, MD, assistant professor of oncology in the lymphoma section at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“Torka is an international medical graduate like me and a great role model. She was a wonderful contact and is now my boss,” said Anampa-Guzmánwho is now a research assistant in the section of lymphoma of the department of medicine at Roswell Park.
While reflecting on this meeting, Anampa-Guzmán emphasized the value attending conferences can have for early-career oncologists in making such contacts.
“It is important to plan ahead and seek out the mentors and others in the field you are interested in that you want to meet in person,” she said.
Networking leads to research
Following their meeting at ASH, Anampa-Guzmán and Marshall later decided to work together on a proposal project for an ASH trainee competition aimed at tackling burnout.
During the following year’s virtual 2020 ASH Annual Meeting, they won the ASH trainee competition with their “Blood Sisters” proposal — a mentorship program that would aim to reduce burnout among physician fellows with a focus on women.
“Around one in three hematology/oncology fellows report experiencing burnout,” Anampa-Guzmán said. “Women physicians are more likely to face gender discrimination, deferred personal life decisions, barriers to professional advancement, and gender and maternal biases. These factors contribute to burnout and make it unique in women. To address some of these issues with burnout in female hem/onc fellows, I developed the ‘Blood Sisters’ program.”
To participate in the program — which has not yet been executed — interested first-year fellows would complete an online survey and would then be matched by clinical specialty and research interest with a second- or third-year fellow. The survey is designed to assess their professional quality of life at the beginning of the program, with repeat measurements taken again at 6 months. The paired fellows would participate in virtual check-ins once per month for 1 year and then meet face to face at the ASH Annual Meeting and Exhibition.
The potential benefits of the program include providing an increased sense of community and opportunities for professional and mentor skills development, and fellows can learn the importance of networking and best work-life balance practices from their peers, Anampa-Guzmán said.
“It is so important to attend medical meetings as an early-career oncologist because of the wonderful opportunities to network,” she said. “However, with the pandemic, medical meetings are not the same virtually as they are in person. There is something very special about having the opportunity to meet in a setting where everyone is at the same level and being able to ask a colleague a question in person or just introduce yourself, face to face.”
Making the most of the pandemic era
With today’s technology, recorded sessions from meetings can be watched from home worldwide, but seeing people face to face, asking questions, giving out contact information and making contacts are invaluable benefits of in-person meetings that are lost with a virtual meeting, Anampa-Guzmán said
“Still, there is a great opportunity to network. The internet is a great source to network with people in different areas of the world,” she said, adding that “the power of social media” is what enabled her to meet and connect with people in the U.S. from Peru.
Anampa-Guzmán, who volunteers as a member of the Social Media Working Group of ASCO and the social media committee of the American Medical Women's Association, is also a part of the team of the Clinical Problem Solvers and the @HemOncFellows Network.
She and Marshall have petitioned ASH to amplify the student membership worldwide, instead of only for those residing in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
“We are still in the process of getting this worked out now, but with the pandemic and other processes of a medical society, it takes time. Change doesn’t happen overnight,” she said.
For more information:
Andrea Anampa-Guzmán, MD, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter and Instagram @AndreaAnampaG.