San Diego memories

May 2016 - Vol. 35, No. 04

Sujana S. Chandrasekhar, MD, AA0-HNS/F President

It is an exciting time as the Foundation gears up for the AAO-HNSF 2016 Annual Meeting & OTO EXPOSM. Although the San Diego, CA, location was decided years ago, this meeting is one that has special meaning for me as you will understand soon. The Foundation anticipates a healthy showing of physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, and industry attendees to pour into San Diego this September.

As President, this Annual Meeting is “my” meeting and brings me full circle, as San Diego was my first Annual Meeting, back in 1990, when I was an otolaryngology resident. After two years of every-other-night-call general surgery and just into my third year of ENT (where a “civilized” every third night call meant 70 hours of work every four days, and where my scrubs could practically stand up on their own), I had taken a vacation week, found some normal clothes, and flown across the country, tagging along with my father, Hosakere K. Chandrasekhar, MD, who was (and is) a perennial attendee, to see what this was all about.

When my husband, Kris Ramanathan, and I went to San Diego for an Annual Meeting planning visit in February, I recalled my younger self navigating the then-newly built Convention Center with my eyes wide. The most senior ENTs, whose names I knew from books and journals, were walking alongside newbies like me, gracious with their time and knowledge in the lecture halls and meeting rooms, in the hallways, and lining up for lunches on the exhibit floor!

For me, that first Annual Meeting was like being a kid let free in a candy shop. My mind went from focusing on the day-to-day of patient care to seeing and imagining the breadth of what otolaryngology was and could be in the future. I remember attending every single minute I possibly could. I loved the pomp, circumstance, and inspiration of the Opening Ceremony. I remember reciting the oath in unison with thousands of other voices. I went to every possible Miniseminar, Orals session, and Instruction Course I could, many on subjects I had read about, but not yet seen. I walked on the plush carpeting of the exhibit hall, “playing” with the newest “toys” of the trade. I took the time to peruse every scientific poster.

There was no organized residents’ group such as the Section for Residents and Fellows-in-Training (SRF), but we found and got to know each other from all over the country. And once the academics were done for the day, the socializing was wonderful, too! From the President’s Reception with leaders in tuxes ready to shake our hands, to parties for residents, to the Alumni functions, all events made for forging life-long camaraderie and deep friendships. So, from then on, the Annual Meeting for me has represented not only a time to learn and teach, but to see friends, laugh, and share in each other’s lives. That special protected time away from mundane concerns also allows energy for collaboration. More than a few of my papers and research ideas have emerged from convention center halls, and the Women in Otolaryngology endowment was born over networking at the Annual Meeting in Boston.

In praise of ribbons

Let’s talk about ribbons. It’s an ongoing joke that my ribbons from various Annual Meetings could easily be stitched together to make a dress. I had a plain badge back in 1990. I don’t think the Academy had the “first time attendee” ribbons back then. But I saw people festooned with ribbons, busily going to and fro. A couple of years later, my first ribbon was “Presenter.” I then joined in on my dad’s temporal bone histopathology course and “got me” an “Instructor” ribbon. The floodgates had opened.

As I joined committees and continued participation in the BOG, WIO, ENT PAC, and Millennium Society, I went from yellow and white to an amazing technicolor assortment, drawing comments—and laughs—as I nearly tripped over them, now myself running busily to and fro! Some eschew ribbons as being showy. I view them as representing commitments met and as a way to inspire others to participate. And they’re a great icebreaker!

Walking around San Diego this past February, I was transported back to the wonder and excitement I felt the first time, and that I still feel at every Annual Meeting. Every year the meeting is made better—“pay one price” registration started last year, and this year we have our International Symposium as well as a revamped Opening Ceremony. I hope you can join me and thousands of other otolaryngologists from around the country and around the world this September to experience that wonder together.