The Top Gastroenterology Conferences of 2019 You Need to Attend

by Arnold G. Levy, MD | ,

How to make the most out of your time at gastroenterology meetings throughout the year

Time. It’s a limited resource and one you want to spend wisely. One aspect of professional development, career growth and practice improvement involves spending your time continuing your medical education. A component of that ongoing learning is attending GI conferences throughout the year.

But with so many options, a practice to manage, patients to treat, and your attempts to have a family life and life activities in general, how do you decide on what gastroenterology meetings to attend, and once there, how can you best maximize your experience?

In this article, I’ll discuss how to evaluate gastroenterology conferences, what some of the top meetings are, considerations before you attend and how to make the most out of your experience.

10 Questions: Suggested criteria for picking the top gastroenterology conferences to attend

So what should you assess when it comes to making your agenda and planning for the year ahead? Here’s a list of questions you should ask and research before registering to attend a GI meeting. Depending on how you answer these questions, it may help you determine where your resources of both time and money should be spent.

1. Goals: What goals do you hope to achieve by attending the conference? Do the theme and sessions align with what you want to achieve?

2. Continuing Education: Do you need CME credits? If so, is the event CME-accredited? And if it is, how many credits could you receive compared to what you need for the year?

3. Costs: In addition to attendee registration costs, how much will it cost to travel to the location? Airfare, hotel, meals and incidentals all add up, especially when significant travel is needed.

4. Identify staff: Would it be more beneficial to send some key staff members depending on the topics and attendee profiles at the show?

5. Duration/timing: How long is the conference? Will being away from the office significantly and negatively impact your patients and your business? What’s the ROI on attending the conference versus staying at the office?

6. Topics: What are the topics that sessions will focus on? Will the majority of the information be beneficial to your practice, your staff and yourself? And is the content different enough from other gastroenterology meetings you may be attending?

7. Speakers: Who is speaking at the event? Are they industry thought leaders you haven’t had the opportunity to connect with yet? A top-ranked keynote you’ve wanted to hear from? Or are the speakers the same ones that you’ve heard multiple times?

8. Colleagues: Who out of your colleagues, both current and former, are attending the event? What conference events exist that encourage networking time?

9. Exhibitors: What vendors will be exhibiting at the show? Will there be companies that you’re interested in working with? How about new products you wish to see such as devices, medications or GI software? As well as new approaches to patient care, new hands-on device opportunities?

10. Career Status: At what stage are you in your career? How can the knowledge and networking at this event help you on your career path?

Tips to Prep Before Attending a GI Meeting

Preparation is often the key to success, and the same rings true when maximizing your GI conference experience. Noted below are some tips and tricks I have discovered over my career to help maximize the experience before even arriving onsite.

Book your hotel and travel plans.

There’s no time like the present. Once you know you will be attending a GI conference, book your travel. Oftentimes, each event’s website will provide details on the closest airports and preferred transportation and even offer a hotel block and special rates.

It’s important to note that hotel blocks close at a certain date or may only be available until sold out. If the conference is taking place at a hotel, I would highly encourage you to stay in the same location. It will lend itself to casual meetups, and the convenience factor is priceless when it’s time to wrap up your day.

Download the app/make your schedule.

In today’s digital world, many conferences, especially the larger-scale ones, will have a mobile app dedicated to the event.

Instead of carrying around programs and booklets and misplacing a crumpled piece of paper, you’ll have the power to browse schedules and exhibitor booth locations and oftentimes even message other attendees. It’s a great way to stay up to date while efficiently navigating the event and planning your schedule ahead of time.

Network online.

Ahead of the GI conference, connect with others who may also be attending. LinkedIn is a great place to connect with former colleagues and make new connections online before connecting in person at the event. In this age of digital media, most shows will have a specific hashtag that you’ll often see on Twitter and Instagram.

By using and clicking on the hashtag, you’ll join in on a digital conversation around the event before it even kicks off, once again helping you network online first and see what the buzz around the GI event is.

Plan out your exhibit hall path.

The maze of exhibitors at some gastroenterology meetings can be quite overwhelming. I advise before the show sticking to your plan of exhibitors you would like to connect with before the show and, of course, making detours if you see a product, service, technology, etc. that catches your eye as you tour the exhibit hall.

Explore the city.

Of course, most of your time will be spent in the confines of hotel meeting rooms or a convention center, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect the city around you.

Make time to explore the area a bit or even turn it into a mini vacation depending on the destination of the event and whether or not your spouse or family have joined you. Conferences will often provide a list of attractions and recommendations in the area.

Our Picks: Top 10 GI Conferences for 2019 and 2020

With so many options out there, we selected 10 of the gastroenterology conferences around the country for the rest of 2019 and looking ahead to 2020.

American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons Annual Meeting (ASCRS)
When: June 1-5, 2019
Where: Cleveland, Ohio
Size: 2,000+

This conference focuses on patient care as well as teaching and research. The meeting caters to colon and rectal surgeons and others involved in diagnosing and treating related diseases. A combination of podium-style presentations, panels, posters and symposia featuring the latest diagnostic and treatment modalities will take center stage.

GO/GI Outlook
When: August 2-4, 2019
Where: Hollywood, CA
Size: 200+

This conference is set to focus on the practice management aspect of GI practices and enable attendees to connect with all levels of GI practice leadership. The workshops and comprehensive agenda are focused on ways to establish a solid financial foundation and help position practices for success.

California Ambulatory Surgery Association Annual Meeting (CASA)
When: September 4-6, 2019
Where: Monterey, CA
Size: 300+

This year’s event will focus on addressing topics that impact ASCs in California. Topics such as finance, human resources, clinical and quality oversight will be covered as they relate to the ASC industry. Some of the sessions for this year include “ASCs in a VUCA World,” “Gaining the Edge With Staff Engagement” and “Best Practices for Revenue Cycle Management.”

Texas Society for Gastroenterology & Endoscopy Annual Meeting (TSGE)
When: September 20-22, 2019
Where: Houston, TX
Size: 400+

Founded in 1976, this organization of over 500 members focuses on providing continuing education to physicians and nurses, as well as advocacy for both the gastroenterology industry and patients. According to the website, additional info for this year’s conference is coming soon.

Becker’s ASC 2​6​th Annual Meeting: The Business and Operations of ASCs
When: Oct. 24-26
Where: Chicago, IL
Size: 1,500+

Ambulatory surgery center administrators and physicians make up the target audience for this annual GI meeting featuring 100+ sessions, 185 speakers, celebrity keynotes and more. The conference will highlight the main topics such as ways to improve your ASC, including the bottom line, managing challenging clinical and business situations, and beyond.

American College of Gastroenterology (ACG)
When: October 25-30, 2019
Where: San Antonio, TX
Size: 4,000+

Known as the premier GI clinical meeting and postgraduate course, this GI conference unites more than 4,000 gastroenterologists. Some of the sessions for this year will cover “What’s New in GI Pharmacology,” “Quality in Colorectal Cancer Screening,” “Functional GI Disorders” and much more. Throughout the exhibit hall, attendees will have the opportunity to network with peers, learn the latest on GI key topics and see the newest advances in GI technology and therapeutics.

GI Roundtable (past)
When: April 5-6, 2019 and 2020 dates are TBD
Where: Seattle, WA and 2020 location is TBD
Size: 150+

In 2019, this GI conference focused on the human element of the GI practice and how to elevate and maintain satisfaction, both with staff and patients in practices. The conference details for the 2020 event have not yet been posted.

The Society of Gastroenterology Nurses & Associates Annual Meeting (SGNA) (past)
When: April 14-16, 2019 and 2020 dates are TBD
Where: Portland, OR and 2020 location is TBD
Size: 1,400+

This GI event attracts staff nurses, nurse supervisors, administrative directors/researches, technicians and educators, among others in the field who are interested in learning more about ways they can help deliver the best patient care. General sessions that made up the 2019 schedule included “Leadership: It Starts With You” and “Advances in Endoscopy.” Details for the 2020 SGNA conference have not yet been posted.

Ambulatory Surgery Association Annual Meeting (ASCA)
When: May 13-16, 2020
Where: Orlando, FL
Size: 2,200+

This GI conference is known for quality educational sessions (50+) and opportunities to earn continuing education credits, and it features a dynamic exhibit hall along with networking opportunities. As a whole, the ASCA organization represents and connects ASCs throughout the U.S.

Digestive Disease Week (DDW)
When: May 2-5, 2020
Where: Chicago, IL
Size: 14,000+

Did you know that DDW is the world’s largest gathering of physicians and researchers in the industry of gastroenterology and other related specialties? Some of the most well-attended session tracks and activities at the conference include various lectures on basic science, colorectal diseases, functional GI and motility disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease and transplantation, as well as poster sessions, clinical symposia, a practice management course, a postgraduate clinical course, an endoscopy course, and meet-the-professor luncheons.

But That’s Not All: Other Gastroenterology Conferences

Here are some upcoming 2019 GI meetings you may want to put on your radar:

Making the Most of Your Time While You’re at Gastroenterology Conferences

So you’ve booked the few conferences you’ll attend, and you arrive at the GI meeting. Now what? Especially if you’re early in your career, are attending an event for the first time or are in an unfamiliar location, it can be a tad overwhelming.

Hopefully, the prep you did ahead of time will help once you arrive, but the best-laid plans don’t always go according to plan. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your time away from the office once you’re onsite.

Download the conference app. 

Hopefully you did this before you arrived at the conference, but do make sure you have the app readily accessible on your main mobile device. The conference organizer will often send out important updates, push notifications, schedule changes and more. By having the app, you can stay even more clued in to the conference happenings.

Get social (online).

This process may have begun before the GI conference and will only pick up in intensity throughout the event. It’s a great way to connect and exchange ideas online and then turn them into in-person meetups—whether that’s with a colleague or even a vendor in the exhibit hall. You can’t possibly make time for everyone you “meet” virtually, but it can set the stage for future connections after the event comes to a close.

Attend networking events and make new acquaintances.

It’s easy to stay within the confines of your comfort zone and connect with those you already know. However, a GI conference provides a wonderful setting to mix and mingle with others in the field who you may not otherwise meet. Attend the networking and social events, whether they are official conference events or hosted by a vendor.

When it’s time to grab lunch or an afternoon coffee, sit down with “strangers.” You never know who you may meet and what new connections you may develop. Even in the digital era, be sure to have some business cards on hand. There’s still something valuable and meaningful about the exchange of a good “old-fashioned” business card.

Strategically navigate the exhibit hall.

Hopefully, outlining your list of top vendors to visit will help guide you, but it’s easy to get pulled in and diverted off the path of your original mission. Whether you opt to use a printed diagram or the app, do make sure you allot the necessary amount of time to have meaningful demos and meetings with those on your must-meet list.

Meeting a potential vendor’s team, seeing a live demo and asking questions on the tradeshow floor can really help influence your decision. Plus, you may even be able to connect with those currently using the selected vendor’s services while at the company’s booth.

Take good, shareable (and legible) notes.

Put those years of taking notes in medical school into practice once again. Take notes that will be beneficial post-conference and ones that you will be able to share with your staff once you are back in the office. Find what works best for you. Perhaps you want to bring a tablet, laptop or just a good old-fashioned pen and paper.

Tip: Many conferences send out the presentation slides afterward so you may not need to take as many notes as you think. Jot down the main points or takeaways then match them up with the presentation when you get home.

Shared knowledge is more powerful, and bringing back key lessons learned and sharing them with your staff will help you spread those insights to your practice, too. Take down the contact info for presenters as well so you can follow up with additional questions and request the slides and other resources they may have shared.

To Wrap it Up

Now that you have some helpful tips on what to look for in a GI conference, questions to ask, a list of some top meetings and how to maximize your time there, my hope is that it will make the process from beginning to end a bit less overwhelming. My goal is that you feel more prepared to maximize the ROI of attending gastroenterology meetings throughout the year.

Interested in connecting with Modernizing Medicine Gastroenterology?

Arnold G. Levy, MD

Arnold G. Levy, MD

Dr. Arnold Levy’s medical career spans 40 years, beginning in Montgomery County, Maryland, in 1977. In that time, he has cared for patients with a wide range of digestive disorders, performed thousands of endoscopic procedures devoted his time to advancing digestive health care as a member of the National Digestive Diseases Advisory Board and the Board of the National Digestive Disease Information Clearing House and as the immediate past President of the Maryland Patient Care and Access Coalition. He also maintains an academic appointment as an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

In 2006 as the healthcare provider environment was growing more complex, Dr. Levy joined forces with colleagues across the Washington Metropolitan area to lead discussions on how to address the challenges in their industry. In 2009 Capital Digestive Care was formed through the merger of seven diverse private practices and Dr. Levy was elected President and CEO where he served until 2017.

Dr. Levy obtained his BA in 1968 and MD in 1971 both with distinction and both from The George Washington University, in Washington, DC.

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