Each fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics holds its National Conference and Exhibition. What were the take-aways this year?
The 2008 AAP NCE was held in Boston, a city near and dear to me from my MIT days. I didn't have much of chance to explore Boston or Cambridge, as I literally zipped in and out in about 24 hours, but it was a beautiful fall New England weekend and I did actually get to eat two meals outdoors in October. One was dinner with my good friend and colleague, Dr. Tim Culbert, who runs the amazing integrative pediatrics program at the Children's Hospitals and Clinics in Minneapolis. Tim co-edited the soon-to-be-released Oxford University Press Textbook on Integrative Pediatrics, and he and I presented a fun session on Saturday afternoon teaching mind-body skills and other practical CAM tips to a roomful of general pediatricians. Our Section on Integrative Medicine meeting featured a 2+ hour dialogue about how parents and pediatricians can best counsel families of autistic children about CAM therapies. The interest in all of the integrative sessions (notably Dr. Kathi Kemper's workshop on natural therapies for mental health issues - the topic of her upcoming 2009 book and her upcoming Pangea session with Dr. Scott Shannon), was great to see. It does seem as if more and more general pediatricians are integrating CAM therapies in their practice and welcoming families who are interested in a more natural approach.
I continue to be disheartened by the outrageous show of big pharma and industry commercial support, especially vaccine and baby formula manufacturers. The "Exhibition" part of the conference is a remarkable sign of the times - many thousands of square feet plush with 10,000+ conference-goers hoarding free pens and other assorted walking advertisements. I am not naive and understand that (a) these conferences cost a lot of money to host and (b) financial support does not mean the educational content is biased, but I do worry that the appearance of conflicts-of-interest continue to sour the public perception of the medical profession. In our cynical age, trust is a four letter word. Authenticity and transparency are often missing and the PR attempt to "manage" to COI concerns (e.g., big ads by Dairy Council, announcement next day that all kids need more vitamin D....) flounder.
I can only hope that the take-away educational and advocacy messages were not overshadowed by the take-away goodie bags from exhibitors.
PS Join me at two upcoming must-see gatherings:
October 23: An Unprecedented and Historical Forum on Vaccines: All Sides of the Issue hosted by Deirdre Imus at the Hackensack University Medical Center
November 14-15: Pangea 2008 - THE Pediatric Integrative Medicine Conference - in NYC