CEOT 2016: Bridging the Gap Between Research and Clinical Care

"Surround yourself with good people and get out of their way."

Although elements of the above quotation have been ascribed to the likes of Ben Franklin and Ronald Reagan, my favorite variation of this quotation is attributed to Keith Reemtsma (often referred to as the father of xenotransplantation), who said, "surround yourself with good people, get out of their way, and borrow their slides on occasion."

I am reminded of this quotation for only one reason: the spectacular success of this year’s CEOT meeting. I honestly think that CEOT 2016 was the best winter meeting ever – and I am taking none of the credit. The planning committee under Anil and Ken's guidance did a fantastic job, as did Jon Koboshigawa in organizing the parallel cardiac track. 

I've asked Anil to blog about this year's meeting and to discuss our plans for the next CEOT. I also invite the AST membership to stay engaged with the leadership. There is nothing more I would like than to see our winter meeting become an annual gathering of friends and families that meets your needs both educationally and socially.

Anil Chandraker, MD, FRCP, FAST, AST President-elect 

Back in 2013, Dan Salomon asked me to help with a new AST winter meeting: the Cutting Edge of Transplantation (CEOT). The idea was to organize a small, intimate meeting that would bring together researchers and clinicians in a more informal setting to talk about a theme in transplantation that would be likely to have a major impact on the field within the next 5 years. Many felt we were missing a venue for basic and translational scientists to discuss the impact of their work and think about how it would affect clinical practice in transplantation.

I had previous experience organizing the AST Winter Meetings when I chaired the education committee. These were generally popular meetings that were more clinically orientated and often served as a review of clinical practice and recent clinical trials. Inevitably, the popularity of these meetings declined as we struggled to put together new themes without being repetitive. To reinvigorate these meetings, the AST changed the format and the American Scientific Exchange (ASE) was born: a more research-based meeting with an emphasis on novel research. However, without an overall thematic approach, the meeting struggled to find an identity.

Out of these experiences, we developed CEOT with an emphasis on bridging the gap between research and clinical care. The initial meeting was a critical success in terms of number of attendees and the level of the presentations, but subsequent meetings struggled to find a unifying topic. While highly rated by those who did attend, the meeting was neither fish nor fowl – there was confusion about who the meeting's target audience should be.

This brings us to this year's CEOT, where I was joined by Ken Newell as co-chair of the planning committee. We decided to keep the name and improve upon the strengths of the meeting while also establishing a more recognizable brand that would provide a meeting valued by our membership and attractive to attendees. We also felt that "cutting edge" could equally apply to clinical practice and regulations as much as basic research.

The result was a meeting that was the most successful winter meeting in which I have ever been involved. The reality is that we were overthinking the problem: we knew who our audience was and we simply had to focus on a topic and an approach that was missing, keep the meeting informal to allow easy audience participation, broaden the range of speakers, and market the meeting early to the right audience. We had a talented organizing committee who put the program together fairly effortlessly and the meeting just felt right. As it turns out, donor allocation was on everyone’s minds this year, from trying to understand the impact of KAS, to the economics, ethics, and politics of organ allocation, to what our European colleagues were doing, to the science of donor preservation. There was also a cardiac track to address heart allocation issues. The fact that we held the meeting at the Biltmore in February didn't hurt us either!

We still put together a cutting-edge meeting, but it was more clinically or pragmatically themed, with shorter talks and more interaction (the iPads were a great addition). In the end, there were 450 attendees (four times the previous year). We realized that we had to remove a lot of the basic science from CEOT 2016, so we are remedying this under Ron Gill’s expert guidance by hosting an AST+ESOT Joint Basic Science meeting November 10-12 in Florida. Lastly, if you missed CEOT 2016 or you just want to relive a great meeting, Rich Formica gave a great webinar summarizing the meeting.

We will be having CEOT 2017 in the same location at the same time (Feb 23-25), and it will be an equally memorable meeting on prolonging allograft survival. Don't miss it!

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