College of American Pathologists
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  Something for everyone at AACC show






June 2007
Feature Story

Ed Finkel

A record number of exhibitors, plenary lectures on topics ranging from pandemics to steroids in sports, and small-group and interactive sessions will be part of next month’s American Association for Clinical Chemistry annual meeting.

About 20,000 people are expected to attend the July 15–19 assembly in San Diego. “There’s a full complement of programs from brown-bag sessions to short courses to ‘Meet the Experts,’” says Jerry Goldsmith, vice president of marketing programs for the AACC. “The meeting covers an awful lot of topics. There’s a very heavy focus on developing areas of laboratory medicine—particularly genomics, pharmacogenomics, personalized medicine, evidence-based medicine, quality management, and informatics.”

“We’ve tried to give laboratorians of all grades and levels something,” explains Mike Hallworth, MSc, FRCPath, vice chair of the meeting’s organizing committee and consultant biochemist at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, Shropshire, United Kingdom. “The symposia are varied as always. It’s a good mix of the clinical and technical.”

The always-crowded AACC exhibit floor should set records for exhibitors and booths, Goldsmith says. About 600 exhibitors had signed up as of mid-May, and the AACC expects about 50 more, an exhibitor total expected to fill 1,800 booths. “Companies are working hard to prepare to launch new products. Typically, the AACC annual meeting and the concurrent American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science annual meeting are where most companies introduce new products,” Goldsmith says.

Hallworth says the exhibits, the largest dedicated laboratory product display in the world, “are why a lot of international people make the journey over.” This year, in addition to viewing new equipment and supplies, “It’ll be a chance to see who has bought whom,” says Shirley Welch, PhD, also a vice chair of the organizing committee, about the large number of recent laboratory industry acquisitions. Dr. Welch is director of chemistry at Kaiser Permanente Northwest Regional Laboratory, Portland, Ore.

The annual meeting will also be a chance to try out new educational formats, some of which were introduced last year. Those who would like an additional day of programming or who prefer just a one-day program might want to experience the AACC University, held on the Sunday immediately before the meeting proper.

AACC University will offer 15 sessions on everything from molecular diagnostics, errors, and evidence-based medicine to pharmacogenomics, prenatal screening, and low-level troponin results. “People who don’t want to register for the entire meeting can sign up just for those sessions without paying the general registration fee,” Goldsmith says.

“Those [university sessions] are short courses and interactive workshops,” says organizing committee chair Barbara Goldsmith, PhD, vice president of laboratory services at Caritas Christi Health Care and director of Excell Clinical Laboratories, St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, Boston. “The emphasis there is certainly very active, case-study-type, practical approaches.”

Also to return is the chair’s invited session—this year on laboratory medicine in underdeveloped countries. “We’re very excited about what’s come together,” Dr. Barbara Goldsmith says. “We think it’s a very comprehensive, dynamic program.”

New this year will be oral presentations of award-winning abstracts selected from those recognized as exceptional by the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry. The abstracts went through a selection process, and the authors of the selected abstracts have been invited to present their work.

Back by popular demand are the “Meet the Experts” opportunities after plenary sessions, in which smaller groups of up to 50 can ask questions of the speakers. The tickets to meet the experts will be issued first come, first served.

“It’s a chance to sit down in a small room and go through your questions with the speaker afterward,” Hallworth explains. “It was much appreciated last year, and I think it’s going to be popular this year. Participants rarely have the chance to go one-on-one with plenary speakers.”

He calls the plenaries one of the meeting’s “strong points,” saying they “cover a great mix of basic science to applied science to public health medicine.”

William Evans, PharmD, of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, will deliver the opening night plenary on “Pharmacogenomics: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia as a Cancer Paradigm.”

“What they’re doing is looking at childhood ALL and using that as a model for curing cancer, based on some of the molecular and pharmacogenomic approaches they use,” Dr. Barbara Goldsmith says. Dr. Welch adds: “He is just an outstanding speaker; I’ve heard him talk before. It’s new ways of using pharmacogenomics in treatment.”

Larry Bowers, PhD, of Indiana University Medical Center, Indianapolis, will discuss the use of performance-enhancing drugs, such as anabolic steroids, EPO, and growth hormones, in sports. Attendees will hear about the strategies of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which Dr. Bowers leads, in combating such abuses, and how they can be of help in their own communities.

Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will speak on “Meeting 21st Century Global Health Protection Challenges: Complacency, Capacity, and Connectivity.” She will address emerging and re-emerging diseases and deterrents to disaster.

Other plenary speakers will be Daniel Pinkel, PhD, of the University of California-San Francisco, who will speak on array comparative genome hybridization, and Victor Dzau, MD, of Duke University, who will discuss paracrine mechanisms of stem cells in tissue repair and regeneration.

Beyond the plenaries are hundreds of courses on topics ranging from thyroid dilemmas, anticoagulant monitoring, and coronary artery disease to diabetes testing, circulating tumor cells, and Medicare competitive bidding. The process for selecting the sessions is competitive. “We usually have five times as many proposals as we can accept,” Jerry Goldsmith says. “The organizing committee goes through a very difficult process to make sure we have a good variety of topics, with speakers whom we know to be professional and good communicators.”

Hallworth predicts particular interest in the sessions on lab industry mergers and acquisitions, and Dr. Barbara Goldsmith foresees special interest in disaster preparedness and new approaches to using molecular and related technologies. And the popularity of point-of-care testing never wanes.

In one of the meeting’s nearly 75 brown-bag sessions, Patrick St. Louis, PhD, of MDS Pharma Services, Toronto, will bring small groups of 10 up to date on the POC testing connectivity standard. Developed in 2001, the standard has been updated and “translated” into separate guidelines for providers and for industry.

“The one for providers tells them if you have a connectivity-compliant device, it should do these things for you,” says Dr. St. Louis, who was involved in the preparation of the original standard and chaired the committee that developed the provider guideline. He will focus on the provider guideline during his brown-bag session. “Here are the ‘must-have’ and ‘nice-to-have’ features. Among them, a compliant device should be intuitive to use, capture the data you want, and transfer it through to your LIS. Communication should be bidirectional.”

The industry is gradually moving closer to that plug-and-play ideal, with companies developing middleware so different brands of systems can communicate. “There are still a lot of institutions that don’t have connectivity, but more and more are requiring it,” he says. “Because it’s a competitive market, companies are listening.”

Ed Finkel is a writer in Evanston, Ill.