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Crowd at Exhibit Hall

Experts offer words of wisdom to conquer National Conference

September 20, 2023

Editor’s note:
The 2023 AAP National Conference & Exhibition will take place from Oct. 20-24 in Washington, D.C. For coverage, visit and follow @AAPNews on Facebook and at

Whether it’s your first time attending the National Conference or you’re a veteran, there’s no doubt the experience can be overwhelming.

You’ll have access to more than 350 educational sessions, hundreds of exhibits and numerous special events. You also will be surrounded by thousands of people invested in the care of children and the practice of pediatrics as you navigate the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

So, where do you begin? Read on to get expert advice from National Conference Planning Group Chair Cassandra M. Pruitt, M.D., FAAP, and members Tonya A. Chaffee, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, Alexandra J. Cvijanovich, M.D., M.Ed., FAAP, Katie Ellgass, M.D., FAAP, Rani S. Gereige, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, Elizabeth Murray, D.O., FAAP, and Shabana Yusuf, M.D., M.Ed., FAAP.

Q: Think back to the first time you attended the AAP National Conference. What do you know now that you wish you knew then?

Dr. Gereige: Don’t get overwhelmed. Pick and choose what you're going to attend. Also, make friends and build networks while you're there because that's what makes the National Conference special.

Dr. Pruitt: I didn't really understand the section/council (H) programs. Those sessions are open to all members, and I think anyone should attend who has an interest in the subject matter. The groups are always welcoming to new members, and they really do want to educate the general pediatric population as a whole. So I encourage you to go.

Q: What are the top things attendees should not miss during this year’s conference?

Dr. Cvijanovich: The plenary sessions are always super fantastic. They're engaging and energizing. And then there are also things outside the conference. There are family events that are a lot of fun and that you don't want to miss out on. Don't forget that this meeting is in our nation's capital and that there are all kinds of things to see.

Dr. Chaffee: If you are a trainee, I strongly recommend going to the Section on Pediatric Trainees meeting (from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Oct. 21, in the Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C.). You'll get to meet other residents, and you'll hear about those unique issues that are important to you as a trainee.

Dr. Murray: One thing that I'm really looking forward to is seeing my friends from training that now live across the country. It's so awesome to be able to be back in person to see those friends again and re-establish those great relationships.

Q: What advice would you give attendees for making the most of the educational sessions?

Dr. Gereige: I go through the conference schedule before I get there and pick the sessions that I want to attend knowing that sometimes some of them are going to conflict. So for one hour of time, I might have three sessions lined up and decide when I get there which I want to attend. With the virtual offerings, you can access some of the sessions that you might have missed later.

Q: How can attendees get the most out of networking?

Dr. Cvijanovich: One of the things that I think is most helpful is to go to section meetings on topics that are relevant. You don't have to be a specialist to go to a section program, if that's something that you find interesting or that you feel like you need some additional lectures on. Also, talk to people who are in a lecture. Say hi to your neighbor, find out where they're from, what they do, what they're interested in, and automatically that is a place to network.

Q: Do you have any do’s and don’ts?

Dr. Gereige: Try to learn at least one thing from each session you attend. Also, try to meet one new person. Don't get too overwhelmed going from session to session. It is OK to take a little time to explore a little bit of the city or maybe take a morning run or do yoga.

Dr. Pruitt: Take it at your own pace. Plan ahead. Keep in mind that a lot of sessions repeat and you don't have to go to everything the first day. Wear comfortable shoes, stay well-hydrated. Most of all, have fun.

Dr. Ellgass: Make sure to bring along a water bottle so you can stay hydrated, jackets and sweaters for those cold conference room settings, and a charging cable so you can stay connected and have access to the online materials.

Dr. Yusuf: Make sure you have comfortable shoes because there is a lot of walking. Of course, if you're going to a reception, you might get some high heels, too. And extra layers like a jacket because some of the conference rooms might be a little bit chillier.

Q: What’s something new attendees might not know about the conference?

Dr. Ellgass: The National Conference is a great place to bring your family. They provide affordable child care, and you know that your child is well cared for while you're attending the educational sessions and networking with colleagues. And then in the evenings, you can get back together with your family and spend time together.

Dr. Gereige: The mobile app is your friend. It has everything you need to direct you to where you need to be, what evaluations to fill out, how to get your continuing medical education credit. Please seek out someone to help you if you're having a hard time navigating the app.

Q: What are you looking forward to at the National Conference?

Dr. Cvijanovich: One of my favorite things at the National Conference every year is the Wellness Center. There are interactive sessions on yoga, stretching, good eating habits, good sleep habits, and they do many stretching classes. Last year, I figured out how to touch my toes for the first time in my life. It’s not only good for your body and your mind, but you also get to hang out with other like-minded people who actually are interested in real wellness.

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