Congress of Clinical Rheumatology Annual Meeting
Congress of Clinical Rheumatology Annual Meeting

David McLain, MD, can be reached at 2229 Cahaba Valley Dr, Birmingham, AL 35242; email:;

Disclosures: McLain reports no relevant financial disclosures.
September 08, 2020
3 min read

Derailed by COVID-19, Congress of Clinical Rheumatology-East returns '100% virtual'


David McLain, MD, can be reached at 2229 Cahaba Valley Dr, Birmingham, AL 35242; email:;

Disclosures: McLain reports no relevant financial disclosures.
You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact

The Congress of Clinical Rheumatology-East was among the first meetings in the specialty to be postponed due to COVID-19.

Originally scheduled for May, the organizers moved it to Sept. 10-13, with the hope that the virus would subside and it would be possible to hold at least some portion of the event live. As infections raged across the country throughout the summer, they made the decision to go completely virtual.

But the journey from a full live event to a hybrid of live and virtual activities to completely virtual has been a challenging one, according to David A. McLain, MD, executive director of the Alabama Society for the Rheumatic Diseases and symposium director of the Congress of Clinical Rheumatology. “One big challenge was that we had to re-do a lot of the meeting as we first considered a hybrid model and then ultimately decided to go 100% virtual,” he told Healio Rheumatology. “The other big challenge was getting faculty on board.”

The main concern with faculty, of course, was the virus. “When we were looking at the hybrid model, it became clear that this was still not safe, and faculty could not travel.” McLain said.

David McLain, MD, FACP, FACR
David A. McLain

The decision to go totally virtual actually alleviated many of the challenges that the hybrid model had presented, according to McLain. “At least you are dealing with just one set of issues,” he said.

This year, CCR East contains a veritable who’s who of rheumatology experts tackling notable topics, including updates on both scleroderma therapies and spondylarthritis pathogenesis and therapy from Daniel Furst, MD; an overview of vasculitis from Philip Seo, MD, MHS; a review of SLE phenotypes and targeted therapy from Joan T. Merrill, MD; and commentary on cognitive dysfunction in autoimmune rheumatic diseases from Noa Schwartz, MD.

Nancy E. Lane, MD, will provide an update on osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, which McLain noted is a feather in the cap for the East meeting. “Nancy is among some other faculty members who do not usually do the speakers’ circuit,” he said. “We have some people on the agenda who are excellent clinicians and researchers but who tend to present only at scientific meetings.”

Alan Kaye, MD, PhD, will be giving multiple talks on pain management, while Arthur Kavanaugh, MD, will be covering rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis and Ashley Crew, MD, will offer insight on dermatology for the rheumatology clinician. Chester Oddis, MD, will give an update on inflammatory myopathies.

As with any in-person meeting, CCR East will include panel discussions, collaborative CME programs with speakers like Sheetal Desai, MD, and Philip Mease, MD, a virtual exhibit hall, poster sessions and topics ranging from MIS-C to connective tissue disease.

With the specter of COVID-19 informing the nature of the proceedings, McLain noted that the organizers of CCR East felt the topic should be covered head on. “Randy Cron, MD, PhD, will be giving his talk on the cytokine storm syndrome that is seen in these patients,” he said.

On a somewhat related note, Daniel A. Albert, MD, will cover telemedicine in rheumatology, which has come to the forefront in the wake of the pandemic.

As for the tech hiccups that have become part of the virtual world over the last several months, McLain assured potential attendees that the congress is working with the same company that has handled other virtual meetings. They will be using a platform designed specifically for such events. “We are doing everything to provide the best experience possible,” he said. With this kind of weight and infrastructure behind the proceedings, McLain believes it will allow CCR East to feel as much like a live meeting as possible.

“As far as interactive activities, there will be opportunities for Q&A after each talk, which we hope will engage attendees and generate discussion,” McLain said. “For the exhibit hall, there is a point system for visiting various sites, and then you are entered into a drawing to win prizes.”

Despite the drama surrounding the planning of the meeting, McLain said that attendance has not suffered. There were 600 attendees at CCR East last year. When Healio Rheumatology spoke with McLain, still nearly a month out, enrollment had exceeded 525 participants and counting for this year’s event.

For those considering attending both CCR East and CCR West, participants in the former will be given a discount for the latter, according to McLain. “It will be just $125 extra for physicians and $100 for NPs and PAs for the second meeting,” he said. “They are totally different programs. There will not be any duplication.”

In closing, McLain stressed that the organizers worked hard to make the meeting schedule amenable to busy clinicians. “We wanted people to be able to be in the clinic Thursday and Friday and then follow the program on the weekend,” he said. “For those unable to attend live, the videos will be available for at least 6 months to obtain category 1 CME and MOC.”