Adam Friedman, MD, is an associate professor of dermatology, residency program director, and director of translational research at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C. After a decade of attending AAD Annual Meetings, he looks back at how he learned to navigate the meeting over the years.
Q: How did you find your way at the first meeting?
A: First, the AAD meeting is an awesome opportunity to interface with mentors. Before my first meeting, I was fortunate that I had been coordinating with some people via email, which is important because being a novice at the meeting, you can get turned around. Identifying mentors and meeting with them is an extraordinary benefit, and that’s what I did. That also leads to ways to get invited to talks, sessions, and committee meetings. Who you know plays a big role. The good thing about dermatology is that, for the most part, we are cordial, welcoming, and happy to pay it forward. Don’t be shy. I would be surprised if someone would turn you away if you tried to have a conversation with them.
Q: Do you block out time for networking during the meeting?
A: The people you want to meet with in terms of mentorship are booked up well in advance. If there is someone with whom you want to meet in a significant way, hoping to just bump into them is not the best approach. I made that mistake my first time. I learned you can’t assume they will have free time. Reaching out early — a month or more in advance — is important.
Q: Are there other meeting events you like to use to increase your social connections?
A: There are great mentoring sessions and programming for residents and junior faculty that will bring everyone together. At night, there are multiple industry-sponsored, non-CME events, so there are a lot of opportunities to hang out and meet people. One of the draws for this meeting is just that — to catch up with established friends and make new ones.
Q: Is it a challenge to coordinate everything you need to do at the meeting? How do you prepare for that?
A: Finding balance is one of the hardest things, and it takes time. The way someone junior, like a resident, can break out as a lecturer is through the Gross and Microscopic Symposium, resident research symposia, or poster presentations. It is almost like a snowball effect that grows over time. It takes time, and it won’t happen at your first meeting. That’s why you keep going back, and it is important to keep at it. If you think someone you want to interface with is interested in your talk or poster, shoot them a message that you are giving a poster presentation and ask them to come check it out. You have to put in the time to work your way up. Early in your career, saying ‘yes’ is a good motto to help you build from there to where you can be more selective.
Q: Do you prefer a type of presentation or topics to get more involved early in your career?
A: The topics on which I speak can vary, but each year I deliver a lecture or two on board preparation and review, an area in which I got involved with right out of residency. That can be an easy entry point for junior faculty, along with other career development programs often organized by the residents and fellows committee. The second topic I always speak on is nanodermatology — nanotechnology as it relates to dermatology. Given the breadth of this subject, it is often easy to deliver a wide array of lectures on the same topic ranging from the prevention/diagnosis/treatment of skin cancer to acne.
Q: Do you have memorable takeaways from past Annual Meetings?
A: There are almost too many memories. The first that comes to mind is a recurring one, which is at the end of the meeting in a cab heading to the airport and issuing a sigh of relief that a) it is over because there was so much to do, and b) being proud and fulfilled by being productive. Another important memory was from my first AAD meeting, where one of my posters won a poster award, an achievement that likely helped me match into this profession. To be recognized by the Academy was validation that I was on track. Everyone is so bright and accomplished, and you can often feel lost in the herd, but the Academy provides limitless opportunities to make a meaningful contribution.