AAOS Bulletin - June, 2006

Exhibits Committee puts on a good show

By Mary Ann Porucznik

The Annual Meeting is the Academy’s largest educational venue and an ideal opportunity for AAOS members to view the latest in hardware, software, equipment, instrumentation, implants, technology and other products of interest to orthopaedic surgeons. Technical exhibits are mounted by companies and generally fill several halls of the meeting space.

On a very different scale, scientific exhibits reflect both the cutting-edge work of AAOS members and the efforts of AAOS committees. More elaborate than posters, the scientific exhibits must involve a multimedia component and provide attendees with a unique opportunity to meet and talk with authors.

The AAOS Exhibits Committee, chaired by Lynn A. Crosby, MD, is responsible for ensuring that both technical and scientific exhibits meet specific display criteria as well as engage and educate Annual Meeting attendees. It’s a major responsibility, but one the committee relishes.

“Each year, we try to improve the exhibits—for both physician attendees and exhibiting companies,” says Dr. Crosby. “We conduct an annual survey of exhibitors and see how we can respond to their requests. And we talk to attendees to see what kinds of changes they’d like to see. It’s an important balancing act.”

At the 2006 Annual Meeting, for example, three significant changes made it easier for attendees to combine education and exhibit viewing: the exhibit hall opened one hour earlier than in previous years; there was one hour of unopposed exhibit time every day, and there was an afternoon beverage break in the exhibit hall each day.

Science and technology

Blending science and technology at the Annual Meeting is another of the Exhibit Committee’s responsibilities. The committee not only solicits, evaluates and selects the scientific exhibits to reflect the interests of orthopaedic surgeons, it also seeks out new technology to showcase at the Technology Pavilion.

The Exhibits Committee gathered outside the Technical Exhibits Hall prior to the annual walkthrough. (From left) Mark H. Gonzalez, MD; Michael H. Huo, MD; Jeffrey Visotsky, MD; Hugh Cameron, MD; Seth Greenwald, DPhil Oxon; Michael Ries, MD; Martin Plotkin, MD; Lynn Crosby, MD; and Edward Abraham, MD.

Scientific exhibits are actually reviewed twice—first when the abstracts are submitted and exhibits selected, and then during the Annual Meeting itself, when committee members visit each display. Exhibits are judged on several criteria, ranging from legibility and overall design to educational value, clarity of content and contribution to the advancement of orthopaedic knowledge.

Each exhibit is judged by at least three members of the committee during the Annual Meeting, and three exhibits are selected to receive “Awards of Excellence.” The award winners, along with several other top-ranking exhibits, are then submitted for publication in the AAOS Annual Meeting supplement to the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

The Technology Pavilion showcases current technology products and applications developed for health care professionals. The half-hour presentations cover topics ranging from “Image guidance for spine surgery” to “What you need to know before you purchase a PDA.” Members of the Exhibit Committee serve as moderators for each presentation.

Ensuring FDA compliance

One of the unique features of the Academy’s Annual Meeting is the importance attached to notifying registrants of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance status of each device and pharmaceutical product exhibited. In an informal survey of other national medical societies, the Academy was alone in its coordination and cooperation with FDA staff in assessing the FDA status of products displayed in Annual Meeting technical exhibits.

Before the technical exhibits open, members of the Exhibits Committee meet with FDA representatives and review a list of products that have received special approval, such as Humanitarian Device Exemptions, as well as products that are for investigational use only or have limited approval. Committee members then team up with an FDA representative and roam the aisles, reviewing the products on display.

This walkthrough is designed to ensure that there are no omissions or inappropriate or misleading labeling, and that exhibitors provide accurate information on the regulatory status and approved labeling of the devices or pharmaceutical products on display.

Committee members may question the exhibitor’s contact and ask to see the appropriate documentation. In addition, after the initial walkthrough, committee members and FDA staff may continue spot checks to help ensure that exhibitors are appropriately and accurately sharing the correct marketing and use information with attendees.

Behind the scenes

Busy as the committee is during the Annual Meeting, much of its work takes place behind the scenes and throughout the year. Under Dr. Crosby’s leadership, current committee members—Hugh U. Cameron, MD; A. Seth Greenwald, DPhil Oxon; Michael H. Huo, MD; Adolph V. Lombardi Jr., MD; Alfonso Mejia, MD; Michael P. Mott, MD; Martin Plotkin, MD; Michael D. Ries, MD, and Jeffrey L. Visotsky, MD—are constantly on the lookout for new technology to showcase and new exhibitors to display their products.

In 2006, for the first time, the committee conducted an education session for exhibitors, focusing on how orthopaedic surgeons use the exhibits to make buying decisions.

“Companies need to understand the educational mission of the Annual Meeting,” says Dr. Crosby. “This isn’t a trade show; we see the exhibit floor as an educational component of the meeting. We understand that exhibitors may be looking for leads or wanting to sell their products. But orthopaedic surgeons don’t come to the AAOS Annual Meeting for the express purpose of buying…they come because it’s an important educational event for their professional growth.”

On the last day of the exhibits, the committee hosts an Exhibitors Open Forum before the halls open. Dr. Crosby and AAOS staff lead the forum. The Exhibitors Advisory Council and all exhibitors are invited; the official vendors are also present to answer any questions and respond to any issues that may arise during the forum. 

After each Annual Meeting, the committee conducts an Exhibitor Survey and reviews the results. “We want to ensure that both the companies exhibiting at the Annual Meeting and the AAOS members who visit the technical exhibits are benefiting from the opportunity,” says Dr. Crosby.

Facing challenges

Moving the 2006 Annual Meeting from New Orleans to Chicago as a result of Hurricane Katrina was both a challenge and an opportunity for the committee. Making the shift in such a short timeframe was difficult. But because Chicago’s McCormick Place had so much more exhibit space than New Orleans’ Morial Convention Center, there was greater opportunity for new companies to exhibit. Almost everyone who requested a booth, got one. As a result, there were more than 500 exhibitors, the most ever at an AAOS Annual Meeting.

The San Diego meeting in 2007 will present its own challenges, according to Dr. Crosby. “The convention center is long and narrow, with not as much floor space for exhibits,” he said. “We will have to be very cognizant of deadlines, particularly when it comes to space allocations.”

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