What Showing Up Can Do for You

Aug 1, 2020, 20:31 PM by Drew Cornwell, DO, and Shalini Shah, MD

Attending an ASRA Conference, What Showing Up Can Do for You: A Resident’s Perspective

During the opening of ASRA’s 18th Annual Pain Medicine Meeting this past November in New Orleans, President Eugene Viscusi, MD, stated, “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” I’d like to tell my fellow residents as well as any medical students reading this article just what “showing up” can accomplish.

I have personally found that there is no better conference and society to “show up” to than that of ASRA. So, please, join us.

As an early 2nd year resident physician (referred to as CA-1 in the anesthesiology community), I held only a fledgling understanding of the practice of anesthesiology and a still smaller grasp of acute and chronic pain management. At the urging of a senior resident, I registered, booked a flight and hotel, and showed up.

With membership recently exceeding 5,000 physicians, residents, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and beyond,[1] ASRA provides an invaluable source of education, mentoring, and professional opportunities. For a medical student or resident, there are no prerequisites to attend a conference or become involved in the society.

My personal involvement began at the 17th Annual Pain Medicine Meeting held in November 2018 in San Antonio, TX. While being warmly greeted at the registration desk, I noticed a sign offering a networking dinner called “ASRA Let’s Eat”; I signed up. An ultrasound anatomy course geared towards residents and fellows was being offered; I signed up. The conference agenda listed multiple special-interest group (SIG) meetings throughout the weekend. A Medical Student/Resident Education SIG stood out to me; I showed up. Near the closure of the meeting, the Resident/Fellow Meet and Greet was held. In a single room, there were more than 50 acute and chronic pain management fellowship program directors; though not a social setting I generally thrive in, I showed up. Each of these events resulted in social and professional connections to various students, residents, fellows, and attendings.

One year later, I returned to the same meeting, this time in New Orleans. I looked forward to meeting up with residency program alumni, friends from prior conferences, and society members I met via social media. After three short days of the conference and through other informal interactions, I had a number of physicians from across the country who I could comfortably refer to as mentors.

In addition to the social opportunities, I was able to attend lectures addressing a breadth of topics ranging from basic sciences, IV ketamine and lidocaine infusion management, opioid crisis management, development and advancement of neuromodulation, contract negotiation, and beyond. The education sessions have often served as my primary instruction on many of these topics, as they’re not frequently brought up in base clinical education. While admittedly most were over my head during my first conference, they served as foundational knowledge.

I have personally found that there is no better conference and society to “show up” to than that of ASRA. So, please, join us. Get involved. There is much work to be done on behalf of the clinicians and patients that we care about.

— Drew Cornwell, DO


  1. ASRA. About. Accessed November 24, 2019.

Why Show Up? Lessons Learned – An Attending’s Perspective

To our Residents, Fellows, and Medical Students,

Do you have great memories from the ASRA Fall Meeting in New Orleans? Are you excited about a new colleague or a new project? Do you appreciate the incredible education and the opportunity to extend advocacy to your local environment? Are you inspired by the “voice” of our entire field of medicine? I have amazing memories from New Orleans, and I am naturally reminded of New Orleans in 2011, when I attended my very first ASRA Pain Medicine Meeting.

The personal-professional support and connections that are initiated and grow from the fall meeting result from proximate face-to-face human contact in such an incredible environment of scholarship, discourse, and discussion; such a combination is not available on any social media or other virtual venue. True mentorship means you can call someone across the country and seek invaluable external advice on any issue; it means knowing who to go to for trustable career advice, guidance, and scientific collaboration. Sponsorship goes beyond mentorship and includes public support by a more influential or powerful person to assist with the advancement of you in your career. It acknowledges your untapped or underappreciated leadership potential and includes tangible invitations and opportunities to participate in career-advancing projects accompanied by direct public acknowledgement and support. Mentorship and sponsorship are incredible gifts we gain from meeting participation.

Showing up at the ASRA Fall Meeting annually also gifts you with remarkable insight on pain medicine. The voices and views you hear, and to which you contribute, could never be reproduced in a textbook as they are the product of this live, nutrient-rich meeting environment. You gain a national and international perspective on hot topics in medicine and on emerging ideas, you bring these ideas back to your home institution, and you take them with you on your own leadership and patient care journeys. At the ASRA Fall Meeting, you share what you have been working on at your institution, and, in return, your home institution has an opportunity to learn and grow from the advances presented.

In addition to attending the ASRA Fall Meeting annually, I am always asked by residents and fellows on how to feel more engaged in the scientific community. Trainees should consider their unique role in the macro-system and their excellent (often under-utilized) potential to impact their local community, home program, and home institution. Trainees are blessed with intimate knowledge of local workflows, impasses, and challenges and often have innovative solutions to these focal problems. Success in advocacy and change management should begin in this local environment, including volunteerism with department-, hospital-, and enterprise-based committees. Concepts learned from this level of participation are necessary for further advocacy and leadership success in larger arenas, including work with larger committees and task forces and on county- and state-based initiatives. ASRA is a wonderful outlet for further engagement beyond this level: ASRA supports volunteer opportunities in process improvement, quality initiatives, and multidisciplinary pain education projects across the health spectrum (including patient- and nurse-focused education). Volunteer for small things and demonstrate follow-through, consistent and meaningful output, and trustable organizational skills. Your leadership skill set will be noticed, and your participation on larger projects and committees will be invited and welcomed! With this step-wise, experience-based approach, you can look forward to a rewarding leadership and advocacy career ahead.

Best of luck, and always remember to reach out to the mentors and connections you have made!

Stay in touch,

— Shalini Shah, MD

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