Department of Medicine

Harrington Chairs AHA Meeting

Robert Harrington, MD, Department of Medicine Chair, is a natural born meeting planner. For the better part of a decade he’s organized meetings for the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA).  He believes in the educational process and in the networking opportunities a large gathering like this provides.
Robert Harrington MD Department of Medicine Chair
Robert Harrington MD
It's one of many reasons he's spent the past year as Chairman of the AHA Committee on Scientific Programs, mobilizing a committee of between 70 and 80 cardiovascular experts to coordinate a conference with topics ranging from basic discovery science to translational science, to clinical science, and epidemiology and population health. As part of a four year commitment, it is clearly a labor of love. He served as vice chair for the AHA meeting for the past two years. This year he is program chairman and will serve again in that role in 2014.

Where other meetings focus on either basic science, clinical science, or population science, the AHA meeting connects it all. The five-day cardiovascular cornucopia takes place in Dallas, Texas, November 16-20th, 2013. Between 17,000 and 18,000 professionals from around the world will attend, in addition to the more than one million people expected to attend virtually. 

As Program Chair, Harrington will speak daily with several hundred media outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and on a hot science day national TV networks. He is always identified as being from Stanford. "I would like to think that it gives Stanford some visibility. That is one of the reasons to do it, to make sure your University is recognized and to pull Stanford people into the planning''. Several faculty members are involved, including Joseph Wu, MD, Director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, and MintuTurakhia, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Palo Alto VA, who will speak on Early Career Day, a designated time for fellows, residents, students, and post docs to get career guidance and advice.

An additional highlight for Stanford is a major address by last year's Lasker Award winner in chemistry, James Spudich, PhD, who benefited early in his career from American Heart Association funding. "The message to our young people in particular is that this person started like you, as a young investigator with some modest funding through the Heart Association to do his science. Fast forward 30 years and he is a prominent scientist," says Harrington.

Networking Opportunity

If people question whether the need for medical meetings such as the AHA, which cost tens of millions of dollars, is on the decline when so much information is available on the Internet, Harrington says it's clear to him that nothing can replace face-to-face interaction.

In fact, one of this year’s goals is to increase networking and interactivity by making only 10 percent of presentations oral and 90 percent of presentations posters in original science.  With the introduction of new technology that will modernize a traditional idea with electronic versions and the ability to make audio comments about the poster, the committee is attempting to foster the idea of an old-fashioned hand shake with conversation about science.

Fun will not be overlooked.  Over the entire five days the committee will explore the relationship between physical activity and cardiovascular health through a variety of physical activities, such as a walking track that surrounds the convention center and a “Wear Your Sneakers for Heart Health” Day with attendees encouraged to wear their tennis shoes with their suits.

In addition to science is health policy, including a presentation by White House Chef Sam Kass, who works with First Lady Michelle Obama on her “Let’s Move” program. Mr. Kass will give a keynote address and meet with attendees.

For Robert Harrington, being Program Chairman of the largest cardiovascular meeting in the country also offers time to spend with people who have completely different interests and expertise. “I like hearing what experts on my program committee are putting into the program.  I like listening to things that I don’t do every day…I get to do some cool stuff.”

For more information about the American Heart Association Meeting visit the AHA website.


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