Early Career Courses Offer Unique Opportunity for Next Generation of Respiratory Health Professionals

Medical students, residents, fellows, and junior faculty got a head start on the next stages of their respiratory health careers during the first days of the ATS 2024 International Conference.

The Student Scholars Program, Resident Boot Camp, Fellows Track Symposium, and New Faculty Boot Camp welcomed more than 500 participants to San Diego for specialty programming Friday through Monday, May 17-20. Large-group sessions, small-group discussions, and hands-on training gave attendees valuable insights into the skills, equipment, and scenarios relevant to their current and future career paths.

The next generation of respiratory clinicians and researchers also had a chance to forge bonds with peers, network with established experts in their areas of interest, and engage in important conversations in the world of health care.

Student Scholars

Meghana Giri, BS
Meghana Giri, BS

Meghana Giri, BS, a medical student from Columbia University, was one of 100 participants in this year’s three-day Student Scholars program, designed for students currently enrolled in or applying to undergraduate school, graduate school, respiratory therapy training, nursing school, and medical school. The program mixed unique sessions and presentations with attendance at several prominent International Conference events, including the ATS Public Advisory Roundtable’s Patients & Experts Forum.

Giri said hearing patient perspectives on disease diagnoses was especially enlightening since she is working in clinical rotations.

“A conference like ATS is so big and it can be hard to kind of figure out what we should focus on, especially if it’s your first time attending a conference,” Giri said. “Student Scholars really helps craft an agenda that’s very enriching and eye-opening for the students.”

Fellows Track Symposium

Kristen-Allyson Ramones, MD
Kristen-Allyson Ramones, MD

The two-day Fellows Track Symposium included 200 participants this year, with 150 fellows in the adult track engaging with clinical issues such as IPF, COPD, lung cancer, asthma, and sleep apnea. Training offered hands-on experience with ultrasound, bronchoscopy, awake fiberoptic intubation, and other procedures.

Kristen-Allyson Ramones, MD, a second-year fellow at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, was one of 50 fellows in the symposium’s pediatric track, which included faculty presentations on topics such as severe asthma in children, pediatric cystic fibrosis, and pediatric pulmonary hypertension.

“It’s definitely a great supplement to our fellow education,” Dr. Ramones said. “I’m thinking of coming back next year just as a refresher — it’s excellent for board review.”

New Faculty Boot Camp

Ian Bentley, MD
Ian Bentley, MD

The New Faculty Boot Camp focused on life beyond fellowship and post-doctoral training, such as considerations involved in transitioning to academic faculty. The two-day course introduced the 62 participants to practical tips on topics that ranged from time management and taming email inboxes to dealing with professional conflict. Breakout sessions offered even more specialized advice tailored to the experiences of physician-scientists, clinician-educators, or basic science researchers.

Ian Bentley, MD, a third-year fellow at the Ohio State University, said he appreciated the New Faculty Boot Camp’s thought-provoking wisdom on subjects he had not received formal training in.

“It’s a great way to devote some intentional time to preparing for your faculty position — intentional time to reflect and think about the kind of leader I want to be, the kind of faculty I want to be,” Dr. Bentley said.

Resident Boot Camp

Fred Bien-Aime, MD
Fred Bien-Aime, MD

The Resident Boot Camp brought together 128 adult, 34 pediatric, and 10 international track incoming pulmonary and critical care fellows for two days of skills training with more than 150 faculty teachers.

Fred Bien-Aime, MD, chief resident at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, said he wouldn’t have minded an even longer course, considering how much he enjoyed the various interactive learning opportunities.

“The access to do procedures — being able to actually work with a bronch for the first time, actually mess around with it, to learn how to use the instrumentation appropriately — was really good,” Dr. Bien-Aime said.

That reaction would come as no surprise to Resident Boot Camp Vice Chair Lekshmi Santhosh, MD, MAEd, a former participant herself, who called the hands-on sessions the “crown jewel” of the course.

Lekshmi Santhosh, MD, MAEd
Lekshmi Santhosh, MD, MAEd

“We can all sit in lectures at our own institutions, and we do. But the hands-on work with your peers, who are going to be your future co-fellows around the country, is something that’s really special and irreplaceable,” she said.

An added element of gamification this year added to the contagious energy at the boot camp, Dr. Santhosh said. Teams of fellows accumulated scores with each activity as part of the first-ever RBC Olympics, leading to friendly competition and even some banter on a shared WhatsApp group. After the course, the two highest-scoring teams competed in a head-to-head relay race to win free registrations for the ATS 2025 International Conference.

The finalists sped through four frantic challenges — POCUS echo, POCUS pleural, airway management, and advanced bronchoscopy. Upon completing the final station, the winners sprinted to a makeshift finish line held by cheering faculty members. The seven members of the winning team, having completed a thrilling come-from-behind victory, were ecstatic with the entire experience.

From left: Jothika Tamizharasu, MD; Imran Nahin, MD; Parth Savsani, MD; Muhammad Waqas, MD; Evan Zehr, MD; Maria Perez Mitchell, MD; and Alla Uts, DO, MSc.
From left: Jothika Tamizharasu, MD; Imran Nahin, MD; Parth Savsani, MD; Muhammad Waqas, MD; Evan Zehr, MD; Maria Perez Mitchell, MD; and Alla Uts, DO, MSc.

“So high-yield, so applicable with relevant cases or imaging,” said Jothika Tamizharasu, MD, incoming fellow at UC Davis Health. “I just feel like there was so much bang-for-your-buck kind of material.”

Imran Nahin, MD, an incoming fellow at the University of Maryland Medical Center, said he was impressed by the faculty and thought the course was a perfect prelude to fellowship.

“Back in November, you match and it’s like, ‘Oh my god, I did it.” And then you have many more months of third-year residency to kill your soul. But this made me feel excited again,” Dr. Nahin said.

Surrounded by his team, Parth Savsani, MD, an incoming fellow at Michigan Medicine, spoke for the group by saying how much they enjoyed the collaborative aspect of the course.

“Forty-eight hours ago, we were all strangers,” he said. “Now we have bonded over an amazing experience.”

Don’t Miss ATS 2024 Highlights: On Demand

Don’t forget that ATS 2024 Highlights: On Demand are available to all conference registrants! On Demand will give you access to the Opening Ceremony, Plenary Session, Keynote Series, Clinical Year in Review, Adult Clinical Core Curriculum, and so much more. The topics will cover ILD, asthma, health equity, and CF, to name just a few. On Demand content will be accessible to all ATS 2024 full conference and On Demand registrants until March 2025.