My First ISTH Congress: How Attending In-Person Again Rekindles Memories of the Past
By Cynthia Rothschild, M.D.
The first time I attended an ISTH Congress was in 1997 in Florence, Italy, which was also my first trip outside Latin America. As an early career hematologist in Brazil, I found funding for travel through sponsorship from a pharmaceutical company that produced factor concentrates for the treatment of hemophilia. Once in Italy, I met Professor Élbio D’Amico, M.D., Ph.D., who was conducting a two-year fellowship investigating von Willebrand disease at the Angelo Bianchi Bonomi Center in Milan. From Milan, we took a train and enjoyed a beautiful and comfortable trip to Florence.
Starting on the first day of ISTH Congress, my excitement for attending grew due to the amount of people from all around the world, the quality and relevance of information available, the number of different sessions, and other activities such as the exhibitions and scientific panels. The organization of such a huge event greatly impressed me. I found that the Scientific Standardization Committees (SSC) meetings focused on knowledge gaps by organizing working groups to search for the best scientific evidence in each area of hemostasis and thrombosis. From these first impressions of the Congress, I realized the important role ISTH provides to the thrombosis and hemostasis field. Independent of the Congress sessions, ISTH makes it possible to network with international experts with various interests and talk to them about challenges, ideas, and projects.
Every day, after the scientific activities, the Congress attendees could enjoy the famous Italian city, including its rich history and art. The Congress social program included a classical concert at the Maggio Fiorentino, conducted by the maestro Zubin Mehta. In addition to the days of the Congress, I enjoyed some days of vacation in Italy with my husband. Many towns were celebrating their traditional medieval anniversaries which were amazing. We even celebrated our marriage anniversary with pasta and a Chianti in San Gimignano.
From 1997 on, I decided to attend the ISTH Congress and SSC meetings whenever possible, even with no sponsorship. Some years ago, I started to actively collaborate with the Society as a voting member, joining some SSC Subcommittees and serving as a volunteer of the Guidelines and Guidance Committee. Working at a public university in São Paulo (Brazil), I frequently have opportunities to discuss and apply ISTH published guidance to update and improve clinical and laboratory routines at the institution. The best example is the recommendation on Cancer-Associated Thrombosis (CAT) management, launched in late 2018 and that had introduced a direct oral anticoagulant into clinical practice. We also manage activities related to World Thrombosis Day, like an annual preceptorship on CAT management open to professionals from other institutions.
I’m looking forward to attending the ISTH 2022 Congress in-person. First, I need to discuss with experts regarding a project that I am leading on CAT in São Paulo City, Brazil. The in-person format of the Congress will allow me to get the experts’ input and complete manuscripts for publication. In addition, I plan to network with international colleagues whom I met at my previous Congress visits. I have found that interaction face-to-face, while drinking some coffee or having lunch is easier than meeting online. In my experience, attending a virtual meeting is not as intense as an in-person meeting. During a virtual meeting, we may be distracted by attending to our regular work during the breaks or even miss some sessions due to other requirements at home.
For me, this will be the first international meeting that I attend in-person since the COVID-19 pandemic began. I admit that I am missing many international colleagues/friends and of course, I plan to enjoy London with them, just as I enjoyed Florence in 1997.
For those who will attend the ISTH Congress this year for the first time, I assure you: it will be remarkable!