The last weekend of January I attended the ASA ADVANCE conference in Dallas, TX. I had been interested in attending this particular event since I heard about it as a medical student, back when it was still called ASA Practice Management. At the time, I did not yet have the experience within anesthesia to contextualize what I would be learning. However, as a resident, I felt that I was now able to better appreciate the legislative challenges our specialty faces, nuances of coding and billing, and best practices behind the business of anesthesiology.
I do not want my future career limited to only clinical work, and I felt that attending ASA ADVANCE and meeting so many other like-minded, capable, and passionate individuals encouraged me to continue seeking ways to be involved in my practice beyond that as a clinician. As president of the ASA Resident Component and Past President of the Medical Student Component, I have already had an inside look into how organized medicine functions, in many ways similar to a large business. At the same time, I also recognize that residency training often leaves much to be desired regarding this important side of medicine that governs our day-to-day practice. I would wholeheartedly recommend other residents to attend ASA ADVANCE for the opportunity to continue this education outside of the operating room.
Some of the sessions I participated in included the Presidential Address by Randall Clark, MD, FASA, where we went over the legislative challenges our specialty faces. For instance, I did not realize that the 33% problem on physician compensation has been a problem for 30 years. Since the introduction of the Resource-based Relative Value Scale system in 1992 which resulted in the undervaluation of anesthesia care at the time, things have been very difficult to reverse since then. I asked what steps we are taking to remedy this, and he said the ASA is considering bringing in outside consulting and looking into new legal strategies from every angle. I look forward to seeing how that looks when implemented. Perhaps by the ASA Legislative Conference we will have encountered more progress.
I also attended a session by Sam Wald, MD, MBA, FASA, who happens to be a CSA Past President, on the pathway to leadership, developing your leadership potential, and leadership challenges. We went over some real-life case examples from the attendees and worked through different ways of thinking and approaching the challenges we face in the hospital. I also learned of the importance of anesthesiologists being available, affable, and able. I listened to how medical coding and payment works, and though it wasn’t my first time, I felt like it still went over my head, which is okay. I think the point is to just listen and learn it again and again, and at minimum to be aware of what it is and roughly how it works.
Perhaps my favorite part of the conference though was running into attendings and residents from other programs, both familiar faces and new ones as well. I counted about 40-50 resident/fellows participating in the residents/fellows lecture track. On Saturday evening, during happy hour, I was talking to representatives from Vituity, a physician-owned and private-led medical group, and they invited me and a friend to join them to go watch a rodeo. As the saying goes, when in Texas, do as the Texans do, so we said yes and subsequently had the most spontaneous and fun night. We all ended the night with cowboy hats and grins from ear to ear.
In summary, ASA ADVANCE is both a conference to learn about hospital business, leadership, and policies, but it is also a place to meet new people and form friendships. I learned the importance of volunteering for committees, since as anesthesiologists we are especially equipped for communication, critical thinking, and collaboration and thus uniquely suited to take on positions of leadership. Physician input is incredibly important to the hospitals and organizations that we are a part of. I also experienced firsthand the importance of just showing up, being present, and willing to say yes.
A big THANK YOU to the CSA for sponsoring me to attend this conference!