COVID-19, Yes, but So Much More

Nearly 2 years into the pandemic, all things COVID-19 will of course be a major focus of the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST) 2021 Annual Meeting.

“During the pandemic, critical care has been at the forefront of what people are interested in,” said CHEST 2021 program co-chair Christopher Carroll, MD, FCCP, from Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Hartford, Connecticut.

“There is so much volume in critical care units that people have interest in anything related to critical care, including infectious diseases and disaster management in critical care,” he said in an interview with Medscape Medical News.

Sessions at this year’s meeting that have a COVID-19 theme will focus on care of both patients and caregivers. Multiple symposiums, oral abstracts, scientific posters, and case reports will focus on clinical aspects of SARS-CoV-2 infections and COVID-19, including complications such as ventilator-associated and hospital-acquired pneumonia, a session called “Viruses, Variants, Vaccines, and Virulence: The Present and Future of COVID-19,” and support of patients and families.

Other presentations will focus on how COVID-19 has affected lung cancer screening, outpatient practices, pulmonary care, and sleep medicine.

Importantly, the meeting will also include sessions focusing on the mental, physical, and social health of clinicians, especially those on the front lines in critical care and intensive care units. There will be sessions on how to recognize and avoid burnout, practice mental health awareness, and take time for self-care.

Presidential Honor Lecturer Curtis N. Sessler, MD, FCCP, FCCM, from the Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, with give a talk entitled, “Navigating the Road to Well-Being in the ICU.”

Empathy and Diversity

Program co-chair David Zielinski, MD, FCCP, from Montreal Children’s Hospital, Quebec, Canada, told Medscape that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought into even starker contrast inequities in patient care and in the healthcare system at large.

“This is a subject people are very keen about right now, whether it’s about how providers are treated, opportunities for improvement, or correcting inequities in outcomes for patients,” he said in an interview.

The program doesn’t shy away from the controversy, either, with a session provocatively titled, “Racism in Health Care: The Fuel That Lit the COVID-19 Fire.”

Keynote speaker Demondes Haynes, MD, FCCP, a professor of medicine and associate dean of admissions at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, Jackson, Mississippi, will speak on the importance of empathy in physician-patient communications and on ways to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce in medicine.

Beyond COVID-19

CHEST 2021 will also include important information for sleep medicine physicians, including the latest news regarding an equipment recall affecting one of the two major manufacturers of continuous positive airway pressure devices.

“This has caused a lot of angst among sleep physicians and patients, and there are not enough devices to replace them,” Zielinski said.

“People who are on home ventilators are also affected by this recall,” Carroll added. “The population of patients who have sleep apnea is much greater than the population who are on home ventilators, but patients who are on home ventilators need it to save their lives.”

The meeting will also include informative sessions summarizing US and European asthma guidelines published over the past 2 years, as well as pending guidelines from the American College of Chest Physicians on venous thromboembolism and lung cancer screening.

Additional topics of importance include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, interstitial lung disease, asthma management, acute respiratory failure in special populations, new therapies and strategies for treating tuberculosis, and many others.

There will also be skill-polishing simulation sessions designed to help clinicians connect with experts in the field, update their knowledge, and sharpen their technique.

Fun and Games

In addition to the serious subjects, CHEST 2021 attendees will have the chance to network with colleagues and friends and enjoy online games, including the 20th annual CHEST Challenge, which will pit teams of fellows-in-training from the Interfaith Medical Center, in Brooklyn, New York, the State University of New York, in Buffalo, and the Ohio State University Medical Center, in Columbus, in a Jeopardy!-style battle of wits and medical knowledge.

Close to 7000 registrants from around the world took part in last year’s CHEST annual meeting, and a similar number are expected for this year’s edition, Carroll and Zielinski said.

American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST) 2021 Annual Meeting: October 17–20, 2021. Presented online.

Neil Osterweil, an award-winning medical journalist, is a long-standing and frequent contributor to Medscape.

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