ASRA News, November 2020

How the ASRA Fall Meeting Has been Designed, Transformed, Evolved, and Executed in the 2020, Year of the Pandemic

Nov 1, 2020, 17:00 PM by by Magdalena Anitescu, MD, PhD, Co-Chair, ASRA Worldwide 2020/19th Annual Pain Medicine Meeting

Cite as: Anitescu M. How the ASRA fall meeting has been designed, transformed, evolved, and executed in the 2020, year of the pandemic. ASRA News 2020;45.



Dr. Magdalena Anitescu


As a young resident and fellow, I was always amazed, impressed, and fascinated by how our ASRA meetings seem to flow effortlessly. All the science, research, and educational courses; the stature of the presenters and their knowledge; and the down-to-earth explanations coupled with faculty approachability made me think that I really was, for the four days of the meeting, in a pain medicine fairy tale every single time I attended. In the magical world that is ASRA, everybody was a family member, all for one and one for all, on the quest for acquiring latest developments in pain medicine.


This year’s annual meeting theme is “2020, Perfect Vision.” Even in virtual format, it will be reflected throughout the meeting by... presenting the state of pain medicine in the year 2020 and the achievements, developments, and directions from the past, present, and future of our specialty.

During the ASRA meeting, strangers encountered once became long-term friends. Speakers heard once became mentors. And I, as a junior anesthesia attending at the University of Chicago, could not be happier to make their acquaintances. For years, I was happy to be the attentive pupil who would listen to the novel lectures or the busy bee instructor who taught the workshops.

When the email came from the incoming ASRA president asking if I would consider being the 2020 Fall Meeting chair, I thought it was a mistake. It was January 2017. As I understood that the invitation was indeed real, I embarked on this amazing journey that took almost three years to complete.  In this short piece, I would like to share my experience working with all of you, ASRA members, trying to bring to life the best science and technological advances to improve patient outcomes in the year 2020.

The journey that I started is certainly not the same as the end, as pandemic railed in and derailed our course in so many ways, while making the meeting stronger in other ways. Going back to the winter of 2017, one can wonder how a meeting can keep relevance when the development began almost three years before it actually happens. A valid point! But as I mentioned earlier, the ASRA society is not like any other professional society. The support, the help, the guidance from the president, board, and staff, makes this journey from idea to real.

Like anything else of this magnitude, everything starts with a schedule. For the first six months after the invitation, I had to come up with a meeting theme and to think of how I would wrap the meeting around it. After many chats with many of you, ASRA members and friends, the idea of a theme started to shape a little…Year of the meeting would be 2020…well, that is the perfect vision…why not link them together. And so, the theme of the 2020 ASRA Fall meeting became “2020, the Perfect Vision,” a theme that would explore all aspects of pain management and dive deep into each topic for an accurate account of

  1. What is new, emerging, and developing in pain management
  2. Details of all those topics similar as would be seen with a falcon’s vision (figuratively speaking of course!).

After that, we (the newly formed scientific planning committee and I) started to work relentlessly to find the best topics and best specialists and scientists to deliver them. We listened to the ASRA members suggestions, went to many other meetings to hear speakers deliver their talks, and, in the end, invited the best of the best. The content constantly changed and aligned with the ASRA CME Committee requirements while maintaining novelty and the cutting-edge spirit.

Through multiple meetings, brainstorming, and searches, we finally had a wonderful program in a comprehensive grid by early March 2020. But, as coronavirus spread throughout the world, its invisible tentacles made their way into our planning as well.

And so, just like that, our meeting became virtual…well, not quite…we really, really, really hoped that it would be an in-person meeting… but gatherings more than 50 people were not allowed in Las Vegas and our meetings usually draw about 1,200-1,400 participants.

So virtual it is for 2020! The spirit of the “2020, Perfect Vision” remains. We preserved most of the carefully designed sessions in this virtual program, except of course the workshops that need in-person contact. As the Spring Meeting suffered an even harsher fate and was cancelled at the last minute, we combined efforts. Jaime Barrata, MD, the 2020 Spring meeting chair, and I designed a meeting that incorporates chronic pain medicine, regional anesthesia, and acute pain topics.

While I will let Jaime speak about her sessions, for the pain management topics, you, my dear ASRA members, will NOT be disappointed.

As discussed, this year’s annual meeting theme is “2020, Perfect Vision.” Even in virtual format, it will be reflected throughout the meeting by national and international experts and leaders in pain medicine presenting the state of pain medicine in the year 2020 and the achievements, developments, and directions from the past, present, and future of our specialty.

We will explore the role of the pain specialist as a “medical detective” who is best equipped to identify what generates pain but also treating pain with a complexity of novel agents and interventions. In multispecialty panels, we will highlight the importance of placing ourselves in each other’s shoes, investigating the various chronic pain syndrome diagnoses and treatment from multiple perspectives. Current and future directions in combating the opioid epidemic, pain genes and genetic mutations in chronic pain, neuromodulation, and tackling cancer pain are just a few examples of what you will encounter in our meeting. In the era of busy physicians and practices, academics, or a mix, we will provide attendees with essential complementary and alternative, regenerative, and psychological techniques to incorporate in the treatment armamentarium to effectively help our patients.

As the pain community expands, we will bring pain specialties together and ultimately develop a lingua franca based on relevant research discoveries and ambitious interventions for the chronic pain medicine community. Many panels will have multiple specialists who will discuss treating chronic pain from different perspectives.

Our interactive sessions will be live-streamed. We will discuss current hot topics in pain management, such as radiofrequency ablation, magnetic resonance imaging compatibility, cybersecurity for implantable devices, a special session related to the future of our pain specialty, and, of course, the impact of COVID-19 on our specialty.

Our virtual meeting will be a blast! First of its kind in ASRA's history, and one that we think will be “a professional meeting to remember.” I'm excited and looking forward to connecting with all of you during the three days of the 2020 ASRA Pain Medicine Meeting — counting down the days to it!

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