Beating conference fatigue

Dr James Lee, Starter Grant of Clinical Lecturers awardee & Clinical Lecturer in Gastroenterology, Cambridge Institute for Medical Research

When I first received an email about the Academy of Medical Sciences Winter Meeting, I had just returned from long, and not particularly useful, conference overseas. Fresh with “conference-fatigue”, I must confess that my first thought was “Oh no, not another conference…”. That feeling, however, quickly evaporated when I read more about what the Winter Meeting would entail. This was to be an event held exclusively for AMS Starter Grant holders, which would provide the opportunity to get to know other people at a similar stage in their academic career (and see if any of them have answers to the challenges I was facing!) and also to have opportunities to network with Academy Fellows and representatives from funding bodies. Shaking off my initial apathy, I quickly signed up and duly booked some train tickets to London.

My interactions with the Academy before then had been relatively few. Indeed, although I was fortunate enough to be awarded a Starter grant, the notification email had only arrived one month earlier and the grant had not yet begun. Nonetheless, I was sufficiently enthused by the Academy’s dedication to supporting early career clinician scientists (this was after all the first meeting that I had ever heard of that was dedicated for clinical lecturers) that I left Cambridge with genuine interest as to what the Academy was all about, how it operated and in particular how it envisaged its role in supporting clinical lecturers in the next steps in their academic careers.

As I now reflect on the meeting as a whole, and in particular on the high quality science being done by people at my stage of training, I’m pleased to say that I was not disappointed. If this was anything to go by, the future of clinical science in the UK would appear to be very bright indeed. Both the poster and the oral presentations were exceptional, and I felt very privileged to be awarded the poster prize (though I would like to stress that it really could have gone to anyone – such was the quality of the work on display). Moreover, unlike other conferences I have attended where the majority of a poster session can be spent simply watching uninterested people walk past your poster, this was completely different. Here, the judges individually spent time with each poster presenter, often with a queue of interested clinical lecturers behind them waiting to ask questions or share ideas. Having so many bright and interested people taking an interest in my work was not only hugely refreshing but was also very valuable. I was not alone in that sentiment either, as many of the other clinical lecturers who I spoke to during the day were already thinking about how to incorporate the new ideas they had been given into their ongoing work.

As impressive as the science was, however, this meeting was equally useful because of the opportunities it provided to have conversations with my peers, ask questions of the Fellows and interrogate the Research Funders! I came away with answers to questions that I had been contemplating for some time, and which collectively gave me a much clearer idea about the challenges and opportunities that I would likely face in the coming stages of my career. Overall, this was a truly excellent meeting and one that I would encourage all clinical lecturers to attend.”


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