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The Highs and Lows of ISHLT Annual Meeting Symposia

Derek Owen, PharmD

Kyle Dawson, PharmD, MBA, BCPS
Houston Methodist
Houston, TX, USA

First, let us say a genuine "thank you" to all those responsible for planning and delivering another fantastic annual meeting. It is difficult to imagine all the thought, time and effort that goes into this endeavor every year. We appreciate the opportunity to offer a few thoughts on this year's meeting from the combined perspectives of a regular attendee and new member attending for the first time.

We titled this submission "The Highs and Lows of ISHLT Annual Meeting Symposia" after our favorite session of the entire meeting (and the first "high") - "Weeding Out Fact from Fiction - the Highs and Lows of Marijuana Use in Transplant." This session approached an extremely delicate and controversial aspect of transplantation with a balance of seriousness and humor that was frankly unexpected in this forum. The presenters were successful in approaching the subject with a focus on the clinical and regulatory aspects of marijuana use in transplantation, while incorporating just enough comedy to provide all in attendance with a thoroughly educational and engaging experience. We would like to thank Dr. Page, Dr. Smith, Dr. Singer, Dr. Leard, Dr. Zamora, Dr. Verschuuren, Adam and of course Vincent, one more time for an extremely memorable and educational symposium.

One of the reasons the aforementioned symposium was so fantastic was due to the debate between Dr. Zamora and Dr. Verschuuren, which brings us to our second "high" of the annual meeting symposia. The invited debate format is absolutely fantastic, and we'd like to see more of these at future meetings. In the weed symposium, Dr. Zamora and Dr. Verschuuren went back and forth about what to do with transplant candidates identified to use cannabis pre-transplant. This format allows the audience to really evaluate the differing positions of two esteemed and respected members of the Society and decide for themselves. The traditional debate was spiced-up with some good-natured character attacks that were unexpected and brought humor to the forum. The same can be said for the debates in the "Dealing with Antibodies Before and After Heart Transplant: Do We Have New Arrows in Our Quiver?" session. Dr. Pisani, Dr. Goldberg, Dr. Chih and Dr. Shah all put on a great show. The debate format really adds value to the sessions because the audience doesn't just hear one position on a controversial issue that declares something "right" and everything else, well, "not right." Instead, it offers a more comprehensive assessment of the issue where both sides may be reasonable in their approach. This symposium format literally raises the level of debate.

As far as the "lows" are concerned, there are really only two things that stick out. The first is the ongoing issue of sessions going over on time. This ranges from mildly to extremely irritating, depending on what is to follow, and often it isn't the last presenter that caused the session to get behind schedule. As an audience member, one doesn't want to have to choose between staying late out of respect for the last presenter and potentially being late to whatever is next (e.g., a council meeting). We feel there is more that the moderators can do to ensure the sessions end on time. If not, maybe more definitive gaps can be built into the schedule.

The last "low" we'd like to mention is the currently undervalued state of the mini-oral sessions. These sessions can be fun because they offer the attendee the chance to catch 12 talks in an hour (each is only 5 minutes in duration), and the information provided is pared down to the absolute core of the research project (i.e., this is what we did and why, this is what we found…). These presentations are often delivered by more junior clinicians and trainees, and they may be a potential member's first real contact point with the society. Unfortunately, sometimes these presentations are delivered to a sparsely-filled room. We say these sessions are undervalued because the 6-7pm time slot has a lot of competition from poster and networking sessions and is at the end of a long day when everyone is craving a bite to eat and something to drink. Beyond a different time-slot, another possible suggestion would be to consider splitting a given mini-oral session between two councils in an effort to generate a larger audience. A nice example of the type of research that can come out of a mini-oral session is an abstract presented by Gavalas and colleagues at the 2016 meeting in Washington D.C. They presented a mini-oral in a combined Pharmacy/MCS session on the use of home urine dipsticks to measure hemoglobin and detect hemolysis in VAD patients.1 The authors have since published a full manuscript on their work in JHLT.2 The mini-oral sessions may offer the audience a glimpse of interesting research ideas that are still in-process or potentially on their way to a print submission.

The Annual Meeting continues to be a "high" for the Society, and it was certainly a "high" for a pharmacy residency program director bringing a first-time attendee. We look forward to seeing everyone in Nice. ■

Disclosure Statement: The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.


  1. Gavalas M, Breskin A, Eisenberger AB, Yuzefpolskaya M, Garan AR, Castagna F, et al. Prospective evaluation of urine dipstick for detection of significant hemolysis in outpatients on CF-LVAD support. J Heart Lung Transplant. 2016;35(4):S78.
  2. Gavalas M, Breskin A, Yuzefpolskaya M, Eisenberger AB, Castagna F, Demmer RT, et al. Discriminatory performance of positive urine hemoglobin for detection of significant hemolysis in patients with continuous-flow left ventricular assist devices. J Heart Lung Transplant. 2017;36(1):59-63.

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