Hi! Today I´m posting on behalf of Jack Brzezinski, M.D., young investigator from the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada.
So you’re coming to the SIOP Congress this year and you’re excited to hear the lectures, see Washington DC, and maybe get a nice pair of Ivanka Trump shoes. But should you come one day early to attend the YI Educational Day? The short answer is “yes”. For the long answer, see below.
1) Your future collaborators and friends are waiting to meet you
You plan to go to conferences to learn about the latest science and as a forum to present your own work. But the secret is that conferences are where you start to form collaborations that you will utilize throughout your career. When you have a patient with multiply-recurrent neuroblastoma that you no longer know how to treat or when your otherwise straightforward osteosarcoma patient develops toxicities to every drug you try you are going to want to have expert friends whose advice you can ask. But where will you make those friends? Sure you can try to track down that famous senior scientist after their talk and awkwardly engage in a few minutes of conversation. But the future big names will all be together at the YI educational day in an informal environment waiting to network with you. It’s in this unintimidating, friendly, and well-attended forum that you will forget some of your most important relationships. You may not just find a clinical helping hand but you may also meet a future indispensable collaborator. More importantly, you might just meet the person who will be the only one you know when you’re traveling to a foreign city. This is the most important type of collaborator – the person who collaborates on going out for a drink.
2) You need some career advice from somebody smart that you’ve never met before
You are working hard at establishing yourself as a future faculty member. You get great career advice from your peers as well as from some of the more senior faculty at your center. You may even have formal mentors guiding you along. But all of these people are influenced by their experiences with you and with the academic center you’re at. At the YI educational day, there will be a focus on career development and mentorship. Importantly, the people there will give you a perspective you’ve never heard before. Have you felt like your research field is underappreciated or overpopulated where you are? This is where you’ll find out that many places around the world need people like you and – importantly – what you would need to do to develop your career in that field. Sometimes the best perspectives you can get are the ones you wouldn’t be able to hear at home. At the YI educational day, you will get many perspectives not just from your country or even your continent but also from pediatric oncologists from all around the world. Where else are you going to get such valuable advice? Nowhere, that’s where.
“Do you have perfect research methodology and is your scientific writing always clear, accurate, and engaging? Do you get every grant you ever apply for? If so, you can probably skip the YI educational day. For the rest of us, this is the day where we have hours devoted to these often-overlooked skills.”
3) One on one (or, more accurately, one on some) time with amazing faculty
During the expert lunch, you will sit with other YIs and a senior faculty for some in-depth conversations about everybody’s research and careers. Last year I had the opportunity to have lunch with one of the big names from my field and learn from her not just standard career advice but also hear her input on some difficult clinical and research problems from other YIs. As I live in Canada and she lives in Europe this is unlikely to have happened outside of the SIOP educational day. Hearing the clinical issues that other YIs from all over the world face was also pretty fascinating.
4) You can always improve your scientific skills
Do you have perfect research methodology and is your scientific writing always clear, accurate, and engaging? Do you get every grant you ever apply for? If so, you can probably skip the YI educational day. For the rest of us, this is the day where we have hours devoted to these often-overlooked skills. Scientific writing is a well-known weak spot for young investigators and as we increasingly live and die by our ability to obtain grants and publish papers it is a vital skill. Definitely, don’t miss this opportunity to improve your writing!
5) Free lunch!
So if you are coming, register soon (limited spaces available) and follow the news through social media!