At my first Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) in 2010 in New Orleans as a medical student, the dynamic people I met and the amazing inquiries I saw helped inspire me to pursue a career in gastroenterology. And I have not missed a DDW since! I eagerly look forward to DDW each year for the learning, sharing, fellowship, committee activities and good times. I want to offer five tips that I have learned to help first-time attendees get the most out of DDW:
1. Plan Ahead.
Before arriving to DDW, look up and highlight the particular sessions and speakers you will find interesting and useful ̶ the sheer volume and breadth of content at DDW can be overwhelming! DDW Tracks, the DDW Online Planner and the DDW Mobile App are so useful in this respect, to help search for and map out the programming you do not want to miss. You can also start building out your itinerary.
2. Attend Courses Tailored to What You Need.
The AGA Postgraduate Course, held on May 2 and May 3, is a fantastic, well-planned production, with a nice mix of high-quality lectures, case-based options and interactive sessions. Likewise, the AGA Board Review Course, held on May 4, is also an outstanding session based on DDSEP. I especially recommend these courses for trainees and early career providers. The AGA Postgraduate Course is a ticketed course that you must register for separately, and the AGA Board Review Course is included with DDW registration.
3. Utilize Networking Opportunities.
The Poster Hall each day offers tremendous opportunities to efficiently browse through and interact with lines of investigation and clinical advances. They also represent a convenient forum and meeting place to network with fellow attendees and presenters. Take advantage of these poster sessions to catch up with old friends, make new ones and develop relationships with potential mentors and collaborators in your field! The Poster Hall will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily during the meeting, and presenters will be at their posters from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
Likewise, if you’re a trainee or early-career GI, I recommend you visit the DDW Trainee and Early Career Lounge, and the AGA Networking Hour in the lounge, to meet and network with colleagues. Another great networking opportunity is DDW at the Derby, this year’s Kentucky Derby-themed opening reception.
4. Dress Comfortably, but Appropriately.
McCormick Place is a big convention center; wear comfortable shoes for lots of walking (not necessarily the shoes you wear at work). Each year, I am shocked at how many steps my iPhone tells me I cover at DDW, compared to a routine week at home and work! If you want to rack up even more steps, DDW 2020 will also have a 2.2-mile walking track on the Exhibit Hall floor. The track will be open May 3 ̵ May 5.
5. Allow for Unscheduled Time.
Finally, there is so much going on at DDW — it is absolutely OK to schedule some time for yourself to decompress. One more benefit of attendance is complimentary access to DDW On Demand. With this, you can watch sessions you may have missed after going home.
I strongly encourage you to take time with your friends to enjoy the amazing things each host city has to offer (in addition to the many wonderful restaurants). For example, DDW attendees can get specially priced seats to select Chicago White Sox games from Friday, May 1 through Thursday, May 7. Some of my favorite DDW experiences have included the USS Midway and a Padres game in San Diego, Segway touring and the National Mall in Washington, DC, and Millennium Park, Second City and the Field Museum in Chicago.