Thursday, June 11, 2015

ADA Scientific Sessions for the Newbie

I was fortunate to be awarded a scholarship by the Diabetes Hands Foundation (DHF) to attend the 75th ADA Scientific Sessions held in Boston on June 5-9.  This scholarship was one of a series of Diabetes Advocates Conference Scholarships awarded by DHF for advocates to attend a number of conferences and meetings this year and was made possible through the generous support of Abbott Diabetes Care, BI-Lilly Alliance, Dexcom, Janssen, Novo Nordisk, and Medtronic.

I've had a long interest in the technical and scientific aspects of diabetes so this was a great chance to see up front what was happening with research and get a much better understanding of the entire ecosystem of researchers, clinicians, industry and all the other people and organizations working on diabetes issues.  In this first blog post I'll be giving an overview of my experience hopefully giving everyone reading this a general idea of the experience.  In later posts I'll be talking about some of social aspects, who I met, neat things happening in social media and patient centered care and then some of the new science and innovations I saw.

Baggage Claim
at Logan Airport
The ADA Scientific Sessions apparently started out fairly modestly in 1940 as a professional get together where diabetologists of the day could gather and share the latest results of their work.  At the time it was mostly clinicians.  The75th Sessions brought together 14,000 people at the at the Boston Convention Center.  And let me tell you the event is big.  They had signs up all over the city, there was even one at baggage claim.  And it isn't just clinicians, today there are a wide variety of researchers, educators, government representatives and even patients.  But most of all, the presence of industry looms over the entire event.  Industry is the fuel behind the fire as billions of dollars are being spent on diabetes and the research behind the innovations that will end up bringing products to market.  And that them is clear not only on the exhibit floor but throughout the technical part of the conference where much of the conference agenda and even the research being reported was focused on the new drugs and devices.  I call this the medicalization of diabetes.  Unfortunately for those of us with diabetes taking care of ourselves is much more than that and includes proper diet, exercise and psychosocial support.  While there were parts of the conference that touched on these topics, the ADA Scientific Session are not (yet) the premier outlet for research publishing for some of these topics.
The Vast Sea of Posters

So one thing to understand about this conference is the sheer magnitude of things.  In addition to scientific sessions where research results are reported there are educational sessions, oral and poster presentations, and special lectures.   To the right you can see the posters.  There must have been a thousand of them.  There were three two hour poster sessions where authors stood in front of their posters so you could ask about their work.  If you went to all the posters sessions and stopped at every poster you would only have about two minutes for each.  That is hardly enough time to read the title and the abstract.  At least they were organized by themes, I felt blessed to be able to visit a few select themes.   I stopped by themes on psychosocial support and genetics.  A number of posters highlighted the positive effect that social support has on diabetes outcomes and there was some interesting work on differing populations on MODY.  I'll be posting about what I heard about MODY later.

The Tidal Wave of the Exhibit Hall
And while the posters were a "sea," the exhibit hall was like a tidal wave.  Companies were out in full force.  This is a major opportunity for companies to directly interact with clinicians.  I doubt there is any other conference of this scale.  There were huge booths and latte machines and soft serve ice cream.  And many companies had separate symposiums going before, during and after the conference where doctors could get a meal and be lectured on the latest drugs and medical devices.  I skipped those, who want to get up at 4am when you are already tired.

Novo Nordisk in addition to serving expresso drinks also offered HbA1c tests.   This proved to be very popular and I can tell you those doctors are very competitive with their own A1cs even if many of them are technically probably pre-diabetic.  One thing I really enjoyed about the exhibit hall was that in addition to the big booths with marketing materials, several big companies had a separate station where company medical experts were available to answer questions.

I dropped by Sanofi's desk and asked why Afrezza doesn't seem to cause hypos.  I specifically asked whether it was due to clearance and was told that it was due to the fast nature of the action.  At the Janssen desk I asked about Invokana and the reports of euglycemic DKA.  I was told that too few cases and too little information was known at this time.  I asked whether patients would be advised to pay attention to hydration and was given a general response that it would always be prudent.  It was nice having experts around even if sometimes the answers needed to be somewhat circumspect.

I ended up attending a number of scientific and educational sessions.  I chose the sessions based on my personal interest and in trying to cover some of the areas that I know the diabetes community cares about.  There is already strong coverage of many of the areas relevant to T1 (particularly the technology and products) by Amy Tenderich and Mike Hoskins over at DiabetesMine.  I'll be posting later on more of the T2 perspective and what I saw around the conference.

Lynn Wickwire in front of the
Boston Convention Center and the Westin
And in final closing I'd like to mention the social aspect of the conference.  In the end a big part of attending a conference like this is the people you meet.  As I first got off the "T" (Boston's subway) in the morning of the first day of the conference I recognized someone that Manny Hernandez (and yes I did see Manny) had introduced me to in 2013.  It was Lynn Wickwire, a Joslin 50 year medalist on his way to the conference.  I had great conversations with Lynn and others at the conference.

[I Am] an Advocate, by Andreina Davila, 2015
And an important highlight for me were the social gatherings and the opportunity to meet people usually for the first time.  I'll post more about the social aspects but I would like to highlight the opportunity I had to attend the Diabetes Hands Foundation Happy Hour.  I got to meet lots of advocates and DHF supporters and my favorite part was being able to walk away with a memento that I will always treasure, a painting of Manny.

And on a final note I'd like to thank Mike Lawson for being such an awesome "roomie."  And I'd like to apologize for getting up so early in the morning all the time.

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading this because, like many of the updates I saw on Social Media during the event, it made me feel like I was there too. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to hearing more!! And congratulations on that painting!