Association News
APA's Annual Meeting Enhances Clinical Practice, Say Registrants
Psychiatric News
Volume 40 Number 18 page 32-32

The content of scientific sessions at APA's 2005 annual meeting garnered rave reviews from attendees, according to a report by APA's Department of Continuing Medical Education (CME).

Kathleen Debenham, M.A., director of that department, prepared the report.

"Ninety-eight percent of respondents to the general evaluation believed the quality of the annual meeting sessions to be excellent," the report pointed out, and 99 percent of respondents felt that the sessions met their educational objectives.

More than 17,500 people attended the Atlanta meeting. While the number was well below that of last year's annual meeting in New York City—26,728—the Atlanta registration provided very solid numbers, which were close to staff projections for the location. Historically, this year's annual meeting registration reflected the 1996 attendance in New York (17,538), which was considered a breakthrough number at the time.

Furthermore, the meeting site was positively received. "The convention center in Atlanta facilitated easy movement between sessions," said Debenham, "and with fewer registrants, popular lectures and symposia became even more accessible. We received very few complaints about attendees missing out on highly anticipated programs" because of rooms being too full to get in.

APA members accounted for 5,281 of the attendees; 8,189 were nonmembers (1,344 of whom were spouses or guests), 3,670 were exhibitors, 231 were members of the press, and 174 were staff.

More than 200 reporters and other media representatives from around the world covered the sessions, according to the report, and news from the annual meeting landed on the pages of USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and a number of popular magazines.

APA continued to use a variety of strategies to monitor industry-supported symposia (ISS) to ensure that the material presented was balanced and unbiased.

Since 1998 APA has used the ISS Resident Monitor Program for both the annual meeting and the Institute on Psychiatric Services, held in October each year.

Through that program psychiatry residents attend the ISS and, using guidelines developed by APA's Department of CME and Committee on Commercial Support, monitor the balance in each presentation, disclosure of conflicts of interest by faculty, use of generic vs. brand names, discussion of unapproved or investigational uses, and bias toward the supporting-company's products.

The results of the evaluation of those symposia suggest that APA's oversight measures were effective, since overwhelming majorities of respondents (95 percent) agreed that "multiple viewpoints" and" an unbiased view of the topic" were presented in the sessions. In addition, 97 percent thought that the ISS would help them improve the effectiveness of their practices.

Approximately 89 percent of the 4,774 respondents to the general evalution survey identified themselves as psychiatrists, and about 3.5 percent of those respondents were residents.

Nonphysician health professionals made up a relatively small portion of the meeting registrants: 1.5 percent were psychologists, 1.5 percent were nurses, and 0.6 percent were social workers.

The percentage of meeting attendees from outside the United States remained at about the same level in Atlanta as it had been in New York (40 percent in Atlanta compared with 42 percent in New York).

International attendees represented 94 countries. As usual, Canada had the highest number of registrants from outside the United States, with 582 attending the meeting, and the second highest number of international registrants came from the United Kingdom (417).

In the section of the survey where respondents were invited to write in comments, few offered complaints about the meeting, Debenham said. She noted that some respondents said that there were too many similar topics scheduled at the same time, and many condemned the use of cell phones in sessions.

More than 60 percent of the writers praised the usefulness of the sessions in enhancing their practice and endorsed continuation and expansion of the National Institute of Mental Health track, which included a number of research-oriented sessions.

As one registrant put it, "The basic researcher's information was integrated into the clinical data in nearly every presentation—there is no better way to make it relevant to us practitioners."

About 85 percent of respondents indicated that they plan to attend next year's annual meeting, which will be held May 20 to 25 in Toronto.

The evaluation report was based on responses to the general evaluation survey form, which was available in two formats: a printed hard copy and online. The online site, which could be accessed during and after the meeting, allowed users to generate a personalized certificate of attendance upon completion of the survey. ▪

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