ASHP Midyear is one of the most well attended and important annual meetings within the profession of pharmacy. This article is meant to assist attendees identify how to get the most out of the meeting.
Authored By: Timothy P. Gauthier, Pharm.D., BCPS-AQ ID
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Midyear Clinical Meeting (MCM) is one of the most important annual pharmacy meetings. The 2016 meeting will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada from December 4th through 8th.
The primary reason ASHP Midyear gets so much attention is because it is an epicenter for making connections between candidates and programs for post-graduate pharmacy training (i.e., residency and fellowship). With over 20,000 pharmacist descending upon the convention, ASHP Midyear is a massive event.
Statistics from the ASHP resident matching program are free to access online and if you review the numbers you will find there are more residency applicants than there are residency positions. This has been a problem for a number of years. According to the 2016 data, 4,011 residency positions were offered to 5,729 participating applicants. This means best case scenario over 1,200 participating applicants (about 20%) still walk away without a residency position.
Competition for pharmacy residency positions remains stiff. Some programs receive hundreds of applications for just two or three positions. In turn, doing everything a candidate can to maximize their chance of achieving their goal is worthwhile.
In an effort to assist those seeking post-graduate training at ASHP Midyear, I have composed the following. These are five things that you will want to note, so you can avoid making these mistakes.
To reassure you that I am well positioned to give advice on this topic, know that I have attended this conference as a pharmacy student, PGY1 pharmacy practice resident and PGY2 infectious diseases pharmacy resident. I have served as a preceptor to many pharmacy students and pharmacy residents and I have published numerous papers as well as a book chapter about post-graduate pharmacy education. It is my goal to share what I have learned to help others make the best decisions during their professional journey.
1. Arrive unprepared
While making it to your hotel room to realize you forgot your belt or shoes is an example of arriving unprepared, this is not what I am referring to. Many residency and fellowship applicants arrive to the conference having a limited game plan on how they will navigate the subsequent days and events.
Here are several things to do before going to ASHP Midyear…
- Review the conference schedule and note when/where you need to be each day as well as who you may expect to find at each event
- Talk to your peers about how they plan to navigate all of the events
- Discuss your plans with mentors and ask them for advice
- Investigate and differentiate training programs you are interested, which includes:
- Organizational websites (example: UIC Residency Program)
- ASHP Residency Directory
- American College of Clinical Pharmacy Fellowship & Residency Directory
- Obtain contacts for people you will want to network with and try to set up meetings in advance when possible/appropriate
- Visit the IDstewardship residency & fellowship resource center
Once at the conference it is important to be prepared with necessities like a water bottle, breath mints, printed copies of your curriculum vitae, business cards, something to write with, etc. Also do not forget about how useful your camera phone can be as a note taking tool.
2. Overlook opportunities to observe others succeed and fail
If you attend ASHP Midyear and have tunnel vision you will miss out on incredible learning opportunities.
A great deal can be learned from witnessing two strangers meet and connect. Whether it is an icebreaker, body language or other small note, we can all learn a lot from each other and that can help us in our own endeavors.
I remember seeing a residency candidate and residency director getting coffee together the day after I had seen them meet at the residency showcase event. It was not that they were meeting that struck me, but the way they seemed to communicate so well. Given that the candidate was interested in oncology and the director was a passionate oncology pharmacist, their common ground clearly served to foster a connection. My take home was that we should not be afraid to ask for a follow-up meeting if we meet someone with a shared passion.
Alternately, seeing people fail can be a great learning experience. Not that we should benefit from someone else’s loss, but we should learn from someone else’s mistakes.
Seeing the sour look on a residency directors face when a candidate asks somewhat insulting questions is one example of this. Candidates should not be asking questions that they should have researched ahead of time or could answer by being more observant. I have seen people ask “so where is your program?” or “do you have any PGY2 programs?” while the poster behind the director states the location in big bold letters and the person directly next to them is the program’s PGY2 resident.
It is important to be mindful of others and your surroundings if you want to get the most out of the meeting.
3. Miss out on networking opportunities
Whether standing in a line, sitting in a common area or taking the elevator, opportunities to network are all around.
Pharmacists are not generally known to be “social butterflies” of the professional world, but at meetings like this it is time to step out of your comfort zone. Pharmacy is an incredibly small profession. It can be surprising how meeting one person can translate into numerous opportunities.
Beyond spontaneous conversation, attending university, organization or institution-specific events provides an excellent forum for networking. For example, almost every college of pharmacy offers some sort of event or reception during the conference. I attended the one for Northeastern University when I was a student and the alumni I met undoubtedly impacted my future professional decisions and career. Keep an eye out for events and ask around if you do not hear about them directly.
4. Do not take advantage of Twitter for professional networking
For a long time I avoided using Twitter. It was just too much to start using another social media platform. Eventually, I saw what people like @IDPharmD (Dr. Goff at OSU) were doing and it changed my mind. Since then I have learned a tremendous amount about Twitter (you can find me @IDstewardship), but the take home message is that Twitter is THE place to expand your professional network today.
Emergency medicine, critical care, infectious diseases and a number of other pharmacy specialties have substantial Twitter users. The people you can find on Twitter are impressive, from organization presidents to national committee chairs to renown researchers to other movers and shakers.
Smart residency seekers will create a professional Twitter account and start engaging on social media. Those who do not are missing out big time. Pharmacists on Twitter become very active during major meetings like this one, just ask @Nadia_EMPharmD (Dr. Awad) if you do not believe me.
I am kind of embarrassed to say it, but even as a practicing pharmacist I have and continue to make considerable connections because of Twitter. Twitter is not just about famous people taking selfies, there are entire subcultures of really amazing people discussing their shared passions and doing great things.
Before getting engaged on social media as a professional, this article on social media advice for pharmacists may be helpful for you.
5. Go overboard partaking in festivities
On two separate occasions at ASHP Midyear I have witnessed someone vomiting into a trash can in the middle of the residency showcase. Mind you I did not approach them and ask, but by the smell of alcohol, it was fairly clear that they had a little too much fun the night before.
Whether it is knowing when to call it a night or limiting your alcohol intake at various events, it is important to acknowledge that “pharmacy is a small world.” Making an ass of yourself at an event may be fun in the moment, but may also create damaging echoes for the rest of your career.
With the “be responsible” warning noted, I also want to acknowledge that you should schedule time to have fun. For students it is one of the few and last times you have to go out with a group of your classmates and for residents it is a special time to create bonds with your co-residents, preceptors and director.
Best of luck to all of those going to the conference this year! As they say in the Hunger Games: May the odds be ever in your favor.
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