Spotlight: American Transplant Congress


To keep ASTS members up to date with the Society’s work on their behalf, the Chimera spotlights significant Society initiatives. This issue, we feature a conversation with Dr. Matt Cooper, Chair of the American Transplant Congress Planning Committee.

How does an ATC program come together?

The ATC program doesn’t just come together. It’s a lot of volunteer work on behalf of some very committed members of ASTS and AST, along with the organizing group, that work well over the course of a year preparing for a five-day meeting. The planning committee begins its planning for the subsequent year’s meeting at the current meeting. What’s important to recognize is that the meeting is a collaboration between this group and the transplant community, who is ultimately responsible to develop the programs and abstracts. The goal is to put together what the transplant community wants to hear about, to put together the best clinical and basic research science. It’s a laborious process that’s very near and dear to the ATC Planning Committee because they have a true interest in bringing together people from all around the world to share what’s best in transplantation.

What do you most want people to know about this year’s ATC?

We’ve tried to be as expansive and yet as inclusive as possible, not only in the topics that were chosen for the meeting program but also in trying to invite newer speakers, perhaps those who had not been participating in the past, as well as additional groups that are now looking for the opportunity to not only meet together as a group at ATC but have specific programming in mind. For instance, we created a new nursing pre-meeting and a nursing session for coordinators and NPs who work in the field of transplant, and we’re also considering sessions for the PAs and NPs as well.

What I think is important for people to recognize is that we’ve had the largest number of submissions this year for programs and abstracts. We’ve created the largest content meeting ever in ATC history because of people’s interest in the submissions.

How has the ATC evolved during your time on the planning committee?

I’ve been on the committee for six years. What we’ve recognized is that there are more opportunities through translational science, bringing together both the pre-clinical and the clinical work. A large number of topics are interesting to a broad audience. The two topics didn’t have as much intersection as I’ve seen develop over the last several years.

The topics have become somewhat more controversial, and we’ve introduced more sessions with debates and have tried to increase audience participation, leaving time for questions and to make sure there is time for either comment on something that was presented or to add additional information. We’re looking to make this collaborative with the audience. We want that to be the position moving forward. We want people knowing they’re coming not just to be lectured at but to have full and rich conversations on topics that spark their interest and continue beyond the structured meeting template. Information sharing and best practices and translation of what is successful in one area, not just in the U.S. but around the world, can make transplant a well tied together community. That’s what I’ve seen the ATC work to do—make the meeting more collaborative and less didactic.

What do you see as the future of ATC?

The truth is, I think this model works very well. What I’m pleased to see is that we’ve brought together the AST and the ASTS, the physicians and the surgeons. We are trying to bring those groups closer together, with both presidential addresses in the same session rather than one day for each society. We try to recognize that we are a community made of various professionals who work collaboratively together for the success of transplant science and medicine. We’re going to see less distinct separation between individuals in their own role within transplant and begin to show more interdependence and interrelated disciplines in the presentations at the ATC. I think we’re recognizing more and more that the success of transplantation requires discussion and thinking of all the great minds that come to the ATC and trying to bring that all together into a cohesive, well integrated, applicable program.

We’ll have more and greater technology to be more engaged during the meeting, such as social media. We’ll have an app to help attendees be better aware of what’s going on during the meeting. And afterward, there will be more availability of some of the prime content online for people to come back to and reflect upon.

What advice would you give an ASTS member who wants to contribute to the ATC?

Truly appreciate that this meeting is your meeting. This is not a group of people who sit down with an empty slate. It really is a reflection of what the ASTS membership says they want in this meeting through the submission of programs and abstracts. That’s how people can participate in a speaking position if they’re interested. Another opportunity is that we’re always looking for reviewers of abstracts when they come in—that requires a lot of participation, since there are 10-15 reviewers for every category. That is critical to get the peer reviewed effort on the abstracts. We are constantly looking for people new to the program to get them engaged, for example as moderators.

Submit thoughtful programs that are collaborative and across disciplines and are attractive to a varied audience. Submit the best abstracts, participate in reviewing, connect with the team if you’re interested in being a moderator. Most important, attend the meeting. We are most influenced in other’s participation when we know they are a regular attendee and participate in the meeting. There is a greater recognition that those are the people who will add more and more richness to the meeting.

What is most rewarding about serving on the ATC Planning Committee?

Speaking solely for myself as this year’s chair, it’s really wonderful to see we’ve made a great effort to share the message that this is the memberships’ meeting. And we’re seeing that response in the enormous number of programs and abstracts, the most ever submitted. To see that come together with this committee, a group of 24 people dedicated to and passionate about distilling that down into a diverse and expansive program, and knowing we’ve provided opportunities—whatever your role or interest, there is something put together just for you. And knowing that when we hit the start button for ATC that we’ve done everything we can to make this an experience that people are going to feel is worth their time and effort to travel to Seattle, particularly those that travel intercontinentally. It’s fulfilling to watch it develop and to have the opportunity to work with the committee in almost a seamless and effortless way. It is so wonderful to know that there continues to be an interest in making this the premier transplant meeting in the world and people who want it to be thought of as such. I’m incredibly proud to be the chair of this meeting.

Anything else you’d like ASTS members to know?

During the meeting, please make an effort to show your gratitude to the committee. It is a job that required significant effort and energy and commitment. Folks willingly do it, but I would just ask that folks see the ribbon on the badge and not only thank but continue to give suggestions during the meeting if they think we can do something better or have a new topic to be covered. If something seems not right or missing, maybe we can fix it during the meeting but if not, we’ll take that back and plan for next year. Don’t think that there isn’t an interest to make things better. There’s always a desire to look at the reviews of the meeting and analyze every one and figure out if there’s a fix. We’d like to try and continue to make the meeting better.