2012-02-10 15:01:31 UTC

Changes in Digestive Disease Week® for 2011

Jan. 13, 2011

Robert S. Sandler, MD, MPH, AGAF

Robert S. Sandler, MD, MPH, AGAF

Nina C. and John T. Sessions Distinguished Professor; Chief, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) is the largest and most prestigious meeting in the world for GI professionals, attracting approximately 15,000 attendees each year. The meeting provides cutting-edge information on advances in gastroenterology, endoscopy, liver disease and gastrointestinal surgery.

When AGA members are surveyed, they consistently report that DDW is among their most valued membership benefits (see “AGA Programming at DDW” on next page). At the same time, they report that they are interested in spending less time away from their offices and labs, while still satisfying their educational needs.

In order to guarantee that DDW will continue to meet the needs of all of its constituencies, the leadership of the four DDW societies (AGA, AASLD, ASGE and SSAT) convened a strategic planning task force to make recommendations about ways to modify and update DDW. The deliberations were informed by a detailed survey of DDW participants and nonparticipants, and were facilitated by strategic planning consultants from Cambridge Concord Associates. The task force included two representatives and staff from each society, DDW administrators and the consultants. 

The overarching goal of the new strategic plan is to ensure that DDW continues to present the highest caliber research in gastroenterology and to provide top quality, state-of-the-art education and networking opportunities to GI professionals from around the world. In order to serve the evolving needs of all stakeholders, the task force proposed shortening the meeting from five days to four. Under the new model, DDW programming will begin on Saturday morning and end on Tuesday, late afternoon. 

The AGA Spring Postgraduate Course will continue to occupy its anchor position on Saturday, but will end after lunch on Sunday (see sidebar). The course will provide the same amount of content in the one-and-a-half-day format. Historically, the AGA postgraduate course was unopposed by other programming. In order to accommodate the compressed schedule, there will be simultaneous sessions throughout the meeting, beginning on Saturday. Coordinated work of the planning committees of each of the societies will attempt to avoid conflicts. For example, basic science topics, rather than clinical topics, might be scheduled during the postgraduate course. 

The ASGE Postgraduate Course, which was held at the end of the meeting, will move to Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, and will be shortened to one day. Attendees who want to pack in a year’s worth of CME can attend both of the courses back to back. Another new feature will be a multi-society course to help GI physicians certified after 1990 fulfill Maintenance of Certification requirements.

Careful planning and close cooperation between societies will avoid overlap and duplication to provide the same content and the same number of posters in fewer days. The meeting will be one day shorter, but attendees will receive the same educational offerings.

The task force also recommended reconfiguration of the exhibit space to provide opportunities for learning, interacting, networking and relaxing. Under this vision, the exhibit space would be an “oasis” with more social areas and eventually, opportunities for hands-on case studies and discussion topics. To add additional value, the exhibit floor will include new vendors who have not traditionally participated in DDW, but that are relevant to our attendees’ practices or lifestyles.

The DDW of the future will integrate new and evolving technologies into all aspects of the meeting to keep DDW at the forefront of technological change. The meeting will use a variety of media to provide access to course content, both during and after DDW. DDW will create an application for smart phones that will enable users to create a schedule, search topics, locate rooms and exhibitors via interactive maps, share DDW news and experiences via social networks, then make a restaurant reservation for the evening. In the future, audience members might be able to submit questions to speakers from their handheld devices. The goal is to make sure that the meeting keeps pace with technology to enhance the learning experience of attendees. 

Strategic planning is not static. An energetic meeting evaluation process will determine the impact of the proposed changes and measure success over time. This will enable effective adjustments and ensure that DDW continues to evolve in ways that best serve attendees, member societies, industry partners and DDW as a whole. 

The environment in which DDW functions has changed significantly. The strategic planning process and the subsequent recommendations were designed to ensure that DDW will retain its prominence. With a shorter, tighter, more integrated schedule, the meeting will continue to meet the educational, scientific and networking needs of attendees. 



AGA Programming at DDW


The AGA Institute is sponsoring more than 70 invited sessions, which cover a wide range of translational science, clinical and basic research topics. About 115 abstract fora feature nearly 700 oral abstract presentations. Several plenaries showcase the most impactful abstracts and state-of-the-art lectures. We will feature 12 cross-society clinical symposia. Up to 20 invited symposia from AGA committees include topics on GI training, technology, policy and United European Gastroenterology Week.

Saturday sessions and the first half of Sunday focus mostly on basic research with a higher concentration of abstract fora, concurrent with the AGA’s postgraduate course. Posters during the first half of DDW cluster on basic research. On Sunday and Monday, focused clinical updates and research roundtables in the early morning and two curbside consult sessions at lunchtime are scheduled.

There will be an invited session in Spanish on major topics, and a distinguished abstracts forum in Japanese.


AGA Institute’s Spring Postgraduate Course

The AGA Institute’s annual Spring Postgraduate Course (SPGC) takes place during Saturday and Sunday of DDW. With the abbreviated DDW schedule, the 2011 SPGC ends after the lunch breakout sessions on Sunday. This year’s course, Emerging Concepts and their Practical Applications, highlights cutting-edge research and practical applications in five areas:

  • Inflammatory disorders of the GI tract
  • Disorders of the lower GI tract
  • Disorders of the upper GI tract
  • Liver and pancreatic diseases
  • Cancer screening and management

There are multiple lunch breakout sessions repeated on both days and multiple clinical challenge sessions offered Saturday afternoon. The course is designed to appeal to learners at all career stages, with a particular focus on fellows in training this year.

A new DDW trainee and young GI track will follow the SPGC course on Sunday afternoon to provide board review material and career and professional development sessions to fellows in training.


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