Marcos Mills, MD
As I reviewed the PCICS 2020 schedule in the days leading up to the conference, I reflected on what this annual gathering means to others and to me. For some, I imagine this meeting represents a chance to meet up with old colleagues and friends. For others, perhaps PCICS represents an important opportunity to showcase their research or to network with other professionals. As I officially begin my career as junior faculty (at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta), I hoped to find useful and thought-provoking presentations, robust discussions, and some imparted wisdom along the way.
At the 16th annual meeting, new concepts were nicely woven together with familiar ones and produced a lively tapestry of thoughts, emotions, and perspectives. Opening the conference by challenging dogma, while building on the experience of the many giants who got us here (many of which were actively involved in this conference) set the tone for the whole experience.
I found myself completely captivated by the talks on “Humanness,” which included considerations on the impact of sleep disturbance, perceptions of time, high functioning team dynamics, and a field of experts known as “Human Factor Engineers.”
I felt disappointment listening to the studies showing the close relationship between racial background and poor outcomes for our patients; a painful reminder that medicine is not insulated from the challenges our community faces as a whole but is instead a magnified mirror of it. I subsequently felt energized learning more about how we can continue working to create a diverse and equitable community, and the need to recognize our own implicit bias in this effort.
I was awed at the myriad of sci-fi-like possibilities in patient care and trainee education using relatively new technology such as virtual reality, advanced non-invasive monitoring, and tissue engineering.
I felt inspired during the Junior Faculty Sessions as I listened to experienced and respected intensivists reflect on their careers, candidly discussing their mistakes and successes, and sharing their advice on balance and burnout.
During these presentations, I vigorously wrote notes on an array of practical and useful concepts, including the types of conflict and how they relate to team effectiveness, on communication within a multidisciplinary team, on critical thinking and how humans learn, on the challenges with data registries, on resuscitation science, on neurodevelopment in the CICU, and on balancing the frequently conflicting family, clinical and academic responsibilities of the career: All talks that were meaningful to me in a very direct and relevant way.
As my hand cramped from all this writing, two thoughts came to mind:
1. Typing these notes would have been easier.
2. This conference is unlike any other I have attended with regard to the consistent quality and diversity of content, the exceptional individuals presenting it, and the online platform upon which it was delivered.
In some ways, successfully organizing this unique meeting during this unique year was representative of what pediatric cardiac intensive care is frequently about: A multi-disciplinary team adapting to unexpected challenges (often infectious in nature) by leveraging our experience and technology to rise to the occasion and to continue moving forward.
This conference elicited many thoughts and emotions, the most salient of which is gratitude. I feel gratitude to the event organizers, speakers, and moderators for rising to this occasion-for rising to the occasion of 2020 as a whole, really.
Most importantly, I feel gratitude for the opportunity to have a rewarding career in a field that is ever-changing, increasingly challenging and that demands the very best of the committed individuals in the PCICS community.