By Raymond T. Chung, MD, FAASLD, AASLD President
It has been a full 15 months since the COVID-19 pandemic upended our lives. As the grip of the virus slowly begins to loosen, it is now possible to visualize returning to life as we once knew it. With vaccination rates rising and infection rates falling dramatically, the AASLD Governing Board has made the decision to proceed with a hybrid delivery of our signature conference. Like you, we are tremendously excited about the prospect of seeing one another for the first time in over a year; however, as President of AASLD, I can assure you that the decision to return to meet in person was not made lightly. The health and safety of attendees and staff have remained our most important priority. Fortunately, recent changes to COVID-19 guidelines from the CDC have given us the confidence that we can safely bring some of us together in Anaheim from November 12–15.
While the in-person component of the program takes shape, I want to emphasize that the majority of the programming and educational content will still be delivered through The Liver Meeting Digital Experience (TLMdX). We want to ensure that our global community, many of whom may still be restricted in their ability to travel, will continue to have access to the latest science and learn from leading experts in the field safely — anytime, anywhere. Please stay tuned to AASLD.org for continued updates regarding the Anaheim meeting.
The pandemic has dramatically accelerated changes in how we deliver knowledge and programming to our members. While some of these changes were necessarily temporary, many were inevitable and have enhanced our offerings. By elevating our digital learning capabilities, AASLD has been able to extensively expand its programming. As a prime example, we have historically offered two in-person Emerging Topic Conferences (ETCs) annually. With the pace of emerging changes in a wide range of topics, this arrangement is no longer adequate to meet our needs. In view of our new digital tools, in addition to our in-person ETCs, we have now approved three additional digital ETCs for the coming year. In addition, we are offering more content online and making it more accessible to a wider audience. The outcome has been remarkable, with increased attendance across the board. We’ve also continued to see great engagement with our webinars, which have been developed, hosted, and delivered by you — our members.
The pandemic has revealed so many of the wonderful qualities of this organization. It has fostered a sense of community and support, knowing that we are all here to lean on and learn from one another. In this regard, our digital capabilities have given us the opportunity to develop new initiatives in mentorship. To this end, many of our Committee chairs have come together to develop digital mentorship programming for our members, both junior and senior. You will soon hear about initiatives to promote mentoring around thematic topics, research disciplines, career development, practice management, and other shared interests. This initiative will be made possible by the broad expansion of our mentor database. We’re also expanding our digital patient-focused programming and offering resources to give the wider hepatology community insights into liver disease and tools they can use to treat it.
Our community is now larger and farther reaching than we ever could have imagined before the pandemic, because it enabled us to bridge the distance of geography by making virtual connections. To this end, we will continue and expand our highly successful Connect programs and Research Workshops, our joint webinars with our sister societies worldwide, and extend our mentorship digitally to our international community. These initiatives will of course build on our newfound capability to bring attendees from all over the world to our hugely successful TLMdX.
As we all look forward to life returning to normal, it is essential that we continue to build on the lessons learned and opportunities uncovered over the past year. Be sure to stay engaged as AASLD returns bigger and better than before. And please don’t forget all the members-only benefits that AASLD offers. We look forward to seeing many of you in Anaheim!