NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—On one end of the cavernous exhibit hall space at HM15 stood Brendan Sullivan, OMS-II, a second-year medical student, practically grinning as he showcased his poster on the effects of bedside rounds with nurses. On the other side stood Donald Tashkin, MD, a pulmonologist who began his training in the 1960s and was talking like a younger man about his poster on drug therapies for exacerbated cases of COPD.
Both men were first-time presenters at SHM’s annual Research, Innovations, and Clinical Vignettes (RIV) poster competition. The contest has become one of the meeting’s most popular rites, growing so big it now spans two of the conference’s four days. This year’s competition drew a record 1,297 abstracts, topping the prior record of 1,132 and fully double the 634 abstracts submitted for HM10, according to SHM.
What makes the contest popular is that its posters are as varied as the presenters’ motives.
Take Sullivan, a student at Midwestern University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in Downers Grove, Ill. His poster, “Examining the Future of Hospitalist Medicine: Impact of Bedside Rounding with Nurses on Patient Care,” served as his introduction to the specialty.
“You can see the tangible results [hospitalists] have,” he says. “Working with the nurses, the nurses recognize [hospitalists] as a continuous part of hospital life. It just seems like, as a field, there’s definitely a lot of opportunity for medical students like me, who want to go into internal medicine but [are] not really sure what aspect of internal medicine. Hospital medicine is definitely a very viable career option.”
Sullivan’s project came about because of work with his faculty mentor, a second-year hospitalist. At HM15, with the titans of the field walking around him, Sullivan showed his work off proudly but respectfully.
“It’s definitely a learning experience for me,” he says. “I’m just taking a backseat and soaking it all in. I realize that being one of the youngest and more inexperienced members here, I have a lot to learn .… I spent eight weeks in a field they’ve been doing for 20 years.”
But experience doesn’t mean a poster presenter has been here before. Dr. Tashkin, a veteran pulmonologist at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles, had never been to an SHM annual meeting. He presented two related posters on COPD drug therapies.
Where Sullivan was awed by the experience, Dr. Tashkin was in it for the academic stimulation that comes with bouncing medical ideas off of medical minds.
“It’s an intellectual enjoyment,” he says. “You can learn things when you talk to people, because they give you certain insights that you never thought of before. It’s not about ego; I’ll tell you that.”
Poster presenters say that a lot. The sharing of projects isn’t about adulation, they say. It’s about finding fellow hospitalists who are dealing with the kinds of issues that plague all hospital medicine groups. That’s why Greta Boynton, MD, SFHM, enjoys the RIV sessions.
“When you walk around and see all the great work that other people have done, most people are working on very similar things, like readmission rates or quality or [patient] satisfaction,” says Dr. Boynton, division chief of hospital medicine for Baystate Health in Springfield, Mass. “You get a lot of practical suggestions for things that you could implement in your own group.”
Dr. Boynton, regional medical director for the Northeast for Sound Physicians, has thought that for years, but this year she took the added step of presenting her first two posters. While showcasing one titled “Unit Medical Director as Career Development for Young Hospitalist,” she said years of seeing work similar to her own left her wondering why she didn’t present.
“I’ve done a lot of practice management and process improvement initiatives over the years, and I have not brought them forward here,” she says. “Then when you see other people working on similar things, you kind of kick yourself for not showing how you did it.”
So she did it. And now she’s glad she did.
“I feel proud of my hospitalist team,” Dr. Boynton says. “The fact that people are interested in it, the fact that they’re asking questions—practical questions on how it might look on a smaller team—very rewarding.”
Rehan Qayyum, MBBS, medical director of the academic hospitalist program at University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Chattanooga, Tenn., has found one reward particularly useful: peer review.
Over the course of roughly 10 posters presented over the years, he has used the comments of passersby to hone his writing skills. He is now transforming his poster, “Effect of HCAHPS Reporting Patient Satisfaction with Physicians,” into a paper he plans to publish.
The RIV session is free editing.
“They’re talking about what they think about how I should be looking at things that are not very clear, or things they may have interest in,” Dr. Qayyum says. “When I’m writing the discussion part or when I’m writing the methods and results part, I may focus on those [comments], add those parts, maybe. Or highlight those things in discussion where people show interest.
“I may be more focused in what I’m doing and may lose what may be important for other people. But being here and letting other people see my work and discuss it with me … that helps a lot.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.