By Jack Aiello
San Francisco/Greater Bay Area, CA

The 56th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting will be my 9th ASH, and by now I’ve learned that getting the most out of ASH directly correlates with the preparation time I put into creating my personal agenda. Ultimately I end up with an agenda of about 100 pages but am able to keep everything in one place, day by day. “How can any agenda be 100 pages?” you ask.

I start by going to the ASH site to study the oral meetings focused on myeloma, and then review each abstract (summary), some of which I’ll cut and paste into my agenda. This is what makes my agenda lengthy but initially enables me to easily review the subject of the oral presentation. Then while I’m watching the speakers present their slides in rapid fashion, I’m able to annotate and update the abstract with new information being presented rather than trying to write everything. Oral presentations also conflict with other orals, so reviewing the orals enables me to figure out which presentations I want to attend.

Next, I list all of the posters I want to check out. While I look at these abstracts as well, I only cut and paste a few of the details for a few of the abstracts. Sometimes these large posters are reproduced onto 8×11 or 8×14 handouts, which I grab and tend to read later. Or I’ll scribble a few notes from a poster onto my agenda if I believe the information valuable to myeloma patients.

Next, I integrate the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF)’s agenda prepared by Dr. Brian Durie and Debbie Birns with my own, making sure that their recommended orals and posters are already on my list, plus I add other possible meetings such as the IMF Symposium, research grants awards event, International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG) meeting and more.

Finally I add other agenda items such as NCI’s Myeloma Steering Committee meeting (for which I’m a patient advocate), pharmaceutical company contacts and myeloma expert doctors I hope to invite to future support group meetings, IMF’s Global Myeloma Advocacy group meeting, and other contacts I’ve made during my 20 years as a myeloma patient.

The process of building my agenda is very time consuming, tedious and iterative but it’s also the best way for me to prepare for what is always an intense and valuable education on the newest myeloma research. I’m extremely grateful to the IMF for inviting me to ASH and look forward to updating patients and caregivers with my daily blogs and final meeting summary, which I present at my SF Bay Area’s December MM meeting and email to anyone else who wants a copy.

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