by: Henschel Freduah-Agyemang, Medical Student, University of Leeds Medical School, England
Hi! My name is Henschel Freduah-Agyemang. I’m a third year MBChB medical student at University of Leeds Medical School, England. I applied to #PathVisions22 with little hope of our abstract being accepted for poster presentation. Afterall, who wants to listen to a third-year medical student - but I thought, give it a shot, there is no harm in trying. And I am so glad that I gave it shot. Not only was our abstract accepted, the DPA kindly offered me a Travel Award to attend the conference in Las Vegas! In this rather long blog piece, I will share some of the things I enjoyed from the conference and a few lessons I have learned along the way.
First, if you’re under 21 from anywhere (except the US) looking to stay in America, especially Vegas, beware of the difficulty in finding convenient accommodation. Unbeknownst to me, being 21 in America is a big deal - you can’t check into a hotel casino if you’re under 21! Although I was obliged to stay at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, the DPA (when asked very politely) was very accommodating by allowing me to find alternative accommodation outside of the strip. So even before the conference I was learning: even if federal law conspires against you, persevere and do not hesitate to propose alternative solutions. You don’t know what might happen if you do, but you most certainly know the consequences of inaction.
Coming with the Travel Award was an invitation to the President’s dinner. As so often happens when you’re ignorant and in some respects naïve, I was a little nervous going to “The President’s Dinner”. But almost immediately, my unfounded anxiety was allayed by friendly and warm smiles. I was surprised to find out that the attendees were very influential people: board members, academics, industrial representatives. So touched I was by their humility and passion for digital pathology that I felt emboldened to strike conversation with one person after another. The second lesson, humility inspires.
Aside from the comradery I felt amongst my fellow travel awardees, I enjoyed the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Lewis Hassell. He gave me some valuable advice towards how to milk the most benefit from a conference: 1. Take an interest in PEOPLE and their research. 2. Talk to the companies. 3. Try to spot the gaps in research. With these principles I embraced the entirety of the conference, and I must concede that I have milked more than I anticipated.
So you do not get bored, I will skip over the preconference workshops which I had the pleasure of attending. But I will here express the impression that the conference mentor whom I was paired with had on me. Lisa Manning, despite her busy schedule, bought out the time to welcome me to the first day of the conference. Truly, the warmness and welcoming spirit of those who work in pathology is universal.
5:30 am! My alarm goes off. I wake up this early because I wish to make the ROCHE Breakfast workshop and hang up my poster. Thus began my highlight of the conference – the poster presentation. I know the previous blogger also says this was their highlight. I’m not copying them! I so enjoyed speaking to industry representatives and other academics about our research that I forgot to attend the opening session. I learned a lot about how we could improve our research, and what other researchers in a similar space are finding. It was encouraged by the critical appraisal and interest by academics I aspire to imitate. And I established connections with industry and academics from across the world. I daresay I do not regret missing the opening session and walking up that early was worth it. The food at the ROCHE breakfast workshop was nice afterall.
In the afternoon, I could relax a bit knowing that I did not have a poster on display for scrutiny! This allowed me to embrace the various talks and posters on display. I particularly enjoyed the talk: What are the rules of engagement? Guidance for collaborations between academia and industry to promote progress in DP & AI by Drs. Anil Parwani and Liron Pantanowitz. Although I am not yet an academic, the principles of the talk I look to implement when seeking research opportunities as an undergraduate. Principally, transparency is vital in any collaborative endeavour, whether between you and your research supervisor or between an academic and industry. Every stakeholder must have their roles clearly defined so that you are not left committing more than you originally intended or had in mind.
During the last day of the conference, I endeavoured to visit each exhibit to gain an insight into what each company present was tackling. I came to appreciate the value that academic and industry partnerships can produce: good quality digital pathology and AI software to supplement the practice of clinical pathology. As an undergraduate yet to choose which field to devote my working life to, the opportunity and relative ease for the pathologist to incorporate academia and industrial partnerships into their career certainly makes pathology an attractive field. Until the realisation of these hopes, I will strengthen the connections I have already made, contribute to the space of digital pathology and AI through research, and hopefully you may see me at #PathVisions23!
Disclaimer: In seeking to foster discourse on a wide array of ideas, the Digital Pathology Association believes that it is important to share a range of prominent industry viewpoints. This article does not necessarily express the viewpoints of the DPA, however we view this as a valuable point with which to facilitate discussion.