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Bioterrorism and more at this year's Annual Session

From the January ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright 2002 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

By Jason van Steenburgh

Internists attending this year's Annual Session will have a chance to build their knowledge of rarely seen diseases like smallpox and anthrax.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, physicians and their patients have been inundated with media information on bioterrorism. The problem, experts say, is that the information has often been confusing, contradictory or simply incorrect.

At this year's Annual Session, to be held in Philadelphia from April 11-14, the College will offer sessions on bioterrorism, chemical and environmental weapons, vaccines and the psychological effects of terrorism. The goal is to bring internists up to speed on how to treat victims of terrorist acts and address patient concerns.

Richard Wenzel, FACP, who witnessed the ravages of smallpox in Bangladesh in the 1960s, said he will give attendees information on how to recognize the disease. "I want physicians to understand what patients might present with and why the disease behaves the way it does," said Dr. Wenzel, who is chairman of the internal medicine department at the Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. "Doctors need to understand the pathogenesis as well as the therapy."

Herbert S. Waxman, FACP, the College's Senior Vice President for Education, explained that while ACP-ASIM has offered similar courses at previous Annual Sessions, this year's sessions will take on new meaning.

"While interest in the topic has recently skyrocketed, a number of people have been saying for years that doctors need to be better prepared for bioterrorism," he said. "These courses were offered because some people thought something might happen, and unfortunately it did."

In addition to sessions related to terrorism, this year's meeting will be packed with clinical updates, in-depth pre-Session courses and all the other features Annual Session is known for. Here are some highlights of the educational offerings at this year's meeting:

  • Clinical Pearls. After a successful debut last year, the "Clinical Pearls" format will return to Annual Session. Three 90-minute sessions—one each on Thursday, Friday and Saturday—will let physicians test their clinical knowledge through hypothetical case-based scenarios.

    Faculty at the sessions will describe a clinical situation and ask attendees to choose multiple-choice answers using audience-response keypads. The keypad results will be posted on a video screen, allowing attendees to see how well they measure up against their colleagues.

    If a scenario fails to generate a clear consensus among attendees, faculty will discuss it at greater length. Cases that the majority of attendees understand, on the other hand, will receive less attention. In this way, the faculty can respond to audience feedback and address attendees' specific needs and knowledge gaps.


  • Clinical skills. This year's meeting will give attendees plenty of opportunities to improve their communication skills. Topics at this year's sessions include smoking cessation, interviewing clinically depressed patients and counseling patients on lifestyle changes. A number of courses will also offer role-playing and small-group discussions.

    For even more hands-on educational opportunities, the Learning Center will offer a host of activities, from practicing procedures like skin biopsies and joint injections to gynecological and neurological exams with standardized patients.

    Kurt Kroenke, FACP, Chair of the College's Scientific Program Subcommittee, said that the clinical skills opportunities help reinforce one of the goals of Annual Session: giving internists information they can put into practice. "At the end, you will have a new skill," he explained. "It might be a new procedure, or a new approach to an exam or an interview."


  • Multiple Small Feedings of the Mind. These fast-paced lectures address frequently encountered clinical dilemmas. During the sessions, faculty answer complex or controversial questions commonly seen in practice. Each session is organized around three content areas and provides concise, evidence-based answers to challenging patient-management problems.


  • Meet and Eat with the Professor. These popular sessions allow attendees to meet experts in an intimate setting during breakfast or lunch. The sessions are an offshoot of the well-received Meet the Professor sessions, where larger groups hear distinguished faculty talk about new clinical approaches or practice techniques. Attendance at the smaller Meet and Eat sessions, however, is limited to 35, so be sure to register early.

For more information on these and other Annual Session features, see the Annual Session Advance Program, which was mailed in mid-December, or go to www.acponline.org/cme/as/2002/index.html.

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