My Meeting Experience: A Medical Oncologist’s Perspective, Dr. Deborah M. Abrams

My Meeting Experience: A Medical Oncologist’s Perspective, Dr. Deborah M. Abrams

Dr. Deborah M. Abrams, credit Jared Ribic
Deborah M. Abrams, MD, is a medical oncologist with Virginia Mason Medical Center who has attended four ASCO Annual Meetings. In the following interview, she discusses the importance of the Meeting, as well as her advice for first-time attendees.

ASCO Daily News: Why have you continued to attend the ASCO Annual Meeting?

Dr. Abrams: Even after attending four ASCO Annual Meetings, the grand excitement of it all still exists for me. I look forward to the Plenary Session; it is difficult to otherwise imitate the sensation of sitting with thousands of colleagues intently listening to data that we know will change standard of practice. Attending Oral Abstract Sessions and reviewing posters provides attendees with the opportunity to ask primary investigators additional information. Finding an expert in the field to discuss a challenging case is priceless but easily attainable. Regardless of how many years I have been in the oncology field, I feel that I will always value information gained from the Education Sessions. The ASCO Annual Meeting draws such a wide diversity of physicians involved in oncology that reconnecting with friends always is a must.

ASCO Daily News: Why is it important that medical oncologists attend the ASCO Annual Meeting?

Dr. Abrams: Similar to why I continue to attend the Meeting, I feel that there is simply a different connection to the data that one achieves from experiencing it at the Annual Meeting. Conversations surrounding the presentations are invaluable. These do not tend to occur in a busy clinical practice back home or after a recent publication, but rather they happen naturally while enjoying dinner with colleagues, standing in line for a taxi with a stranger, or walking to Hall B with a friend from fellowship. The Annual Meeting can offer a reboot of love and energy for the field oncology; if possible, I think a medical oncologist should strive to go at least once every few years throughout their career.

ASCO Daily News: How has research presented at the ASCO Annual Meeting in the past affected how you practice?

Dr. Abrams: The 2015 Annual Meeting emphasized immunotherapy advances, which greatly affected my practice. I still remember how discussions changed, especially among my patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and melanoma. The biggest impact for me came from the several trials of combination therapy in metastatic melanoma, as well as from the phase III study of nivolumab in patients with refractory, advanced nonsquamous NSCLC. With the release of Meeting highlights to the general public, there was also a new sense of hope among many of my patients. Some of my patients and primary care provider colleagues suddenly wanted to talk about immune pathways.

ASCO Daily News: What short- and/or long-term takeaways did you come away with from the 2016 Meeting?

Dr. Abrams: The 2016 Annual Meeting nicely continued the conversation of immunotherapy and targeted therapies. The excitement was palpable. The main takeaway for me was not necessarily a particular trial or treatment, but the importance of staying current with the vast amount of newly available agents (and supporting clinical data) that we have seen recently emerge at rapid speeds.

ASCO Daily News: What advice do you have for first-time attendees to get the most out of their meeting experience?

Dr. Abrams: Review the schedule ahead of time and highlight presentations of interest. For fellows and residents, I especially recommend not to follow a particular track of subjects, but rather to enjoy a sampler of what interests them. First-time attendees should experience a little bit of it all, staying open to different formats of presentations. It is also important to set aside time to connect with colleagues from both the past and the present. Comfortable walking shoes are a must.

About Dr. Abrams: Dr. Adams is a medical oncologist focusing on general hematology/oncology with special emphasis on melanoma. She considers herself fortunate to practice in both Seattle, as well as on Bainbridge Island, Washington.