How the CHEST Annual Meeting Has Changed: An Oral History

July 17, 2017 by Chris Troksa

The first CHEST Annual Meeting occurred 82 years ago in Albuquerque, New Mexico. To put this into perspective, Franklin Roosevelt was President, radio was an innovative medium, and Albuquerque had 500,000 fewer residents than it does now. (The Air Force Base that helped drive population to what is now the largest city in New Mexico did not exist yet, as there was no US Air Force.)

Maybe the elevation of the high desert did not agree with CHEST founder Murray Kornfeld, but the Annual Meeting never returned to New Mexico. (It has been to Chicago a record 14 times, and this year’s host, Toronto, has hosted the meeting 4 times.) While we do not have first-person accounts from any of the attendees of the original meeting, below is a brief history of the CHEST Annual Meeting as told by longtime staff, leadership, and attendees.

How has the CHEST Annual Meeting changed over the years?

Steve Welch, Past Executive Vice President and CEO of CHEST

First CHEST: 1994

What has changed is how we deliver that education – because of our spirit of continuous innovation. What was once a traditional didactic “talking heads” meeting full of lectures and panel discussions, has evolved to focus on hands-on, technology-oriented, personalized learning experiences. Small group interactive case discussions, problem-based learning, high-fidelity medical simulation, hands-on skills training, virtual patient tours, and gamification of education are only a handful of the unique and innovative methods CHEST has implemented. These innovations enhance the meeting and engage learners in a more interactive educational process.

CHEST continues to experiment with new technologies and educational formats so that we can ensure we are providing the best clinical medical education experience to the health-care team.

Richard Irwin, MD, Master FCCP, Editor in Chief of the journal CHEST

First CHEST: 1979

Distinguishing characteristics of the annual CHEST meeting include the warmth and friendliness of the environment and attendees and early adoption of the newest and important educational offerings, such as simulation.

Pam Goorsky, Manager, Editorial Resources

First CHEST: 1995

Most of our members today would not remember the early days of the annual meetings, where lavish formal banquets were held and fireside chats drew attendees in the evening hours.

The first thing that comes to my mind about the first CHEST meeting I attended was the name change for the annual meeting. In 1995, I attended the first newly named “CHEST 1995” meeting in New York City. Previously, the annual meeting was called by the lengthy designation “Annual International Scientific Assembly.” After the 1994 Annual International Scientific Assembly, it was decided to rename the annual meeting to reflect the well-recognized and respected name and brand of our organization’s cornerstone – our CHEST journal. Who would have known that our organization itself would be so-named also some 20 years later?

William Kelly, MD, FCCP

First CHEST: 2000

I can say that CHEST is now truly omni-channel. Education is provided in every imaginable and complimentary way. Chad Jackson and CHEST are really good at doing the imaginable part. From my time on the Education Committee, I can also see that learner needs assessment and faculty development are impressive. They measure learner outcomes (which have been significant). The staff size has grown to meet their critical educational mission. The CHEST Foundation philanthropy and patient education has exponentially grown, as well.

Peter Mazzone, MD, FCCP  (Program Chair for CHEST 2017)

First CHEST: 1998

During my time with CHEST, the annual meeting has introduced multiple new learning formats, such as simulation-based training, interdisciplinary sessions, and problem-based learning sessions. The meeting has also become more inclusive of nonphysician providers, recognizing the value of team-based training.

D. Robert McCaffree, MD, Master FCCP

First CHEST: 1976

As I reviewed some of our past programs, I am struck by several things.  First, I think it is clear that CHEST has continued to evolve. We do present more “cutting-edge” science, but the program remains applicable to daily patient care. I still hear both our fellows and community physicians say that CHEST is the best meeting for directly applicable information and updates.  Along those lines, our hands-on workshops are clearly a major change. And we have expanded to include the entire health-care team – nurses, respiratory therapists, administrators, and others – all the while keeping the focus on the patient.

Yet, the meeting has remained the same at heart.

Richard S. Irwin, MD, Master FCCP:

The experience for me of the annual CHEST meeting hasn’t changed. The meeting has always been collegial, and clinically oriented from research and patient care perspectives with a strong focus on education.

Steve Welch, Past CHEST EVP/CEO:

Over the past 23 years of my career at CHEST, something that has remained consistent with the CHEST Annual Meeting is its commitment to providing clinical education and information that can be taken away and applied to patient care immediately. Clinical education is the differentiator for CHEST from other organizations, and it’s what our members and attendees come for.

William Kelly, MD, FCCP:

For the most part, fortunately, the “big things” have remained the same, namely being the world’s leader in clinical pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine education.

Pam Goorsky, Manager, Editorial Resources:

The physical venue has grown and been transformed from all lecture halls to a more open environment with varied offerings of virtual tours, simulation stations, games, small theaters, and much more interaction-focused activities. CHEST has been, and still remains the ultimate, clinical learning event for a more diverse specialty audience than ever before, always evolving with the entire medical team in mind and the resultant best patient care they provide.

How has CHEST positively impacted your career?

Richard S. Irwin, MD, Master FCCP:

It was at the annual CHEST meeting that I got to rub elbows with and get to know Al Soffer, Jim Dalen, and Jack Weg who were among the leaders of CHEST medicine at the time I became a Fellow. These individuals became indispensable mentors of my academic career. I also was afforded the good fortune of making lasting friendships that I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to make.

D. Robert McCaffree, MD, Master FCCP:

For some time, CHEST has been my major meeting to gain new information.  I must also say that for many years because of my leadership roles and the number of committee meetings, I didn’t have the time I wished to have to attend many sessions. I have thoroughly enjoyed having more time the past few years to more fully benefit from this outstanding meeting. I would encourage all physicians in our areas of interest to take full advantage of this educational jewel.

Peter Mazzone, MD, FCCP:

The annual meeting has allowed me to speak in front of, and meet, leaders in my field of interest. This networking has led to many opportunities for me to contribute to education, policy, and research. These opportunities have allowed me to grow and have brought a great deal of satisfaction to my career.

Do you have memories of your own that you would like to share?

Let us know in the comments below, or email us so that we can include them in another blog post. Thanks, and lets make more memories at CHEST 2017.

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