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March 28, 2012

Are Medical Conferences Useful? And for Whom?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Stanford Prevention Research Center, Departments of Medicine and Health Research and Policy, Stanford University School of Medicine; Department of Statistics, Stanford University School of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford, California.

JAMA. 2012;307(12):1257-1258. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.360

Conferences organized by medical societies and related organizations are a dominant feature of the academic, professional, and social life of all health-related disciplines. These events come in all sizes, from relatively small, local gatherings, workshops, and symposia to large international mega-congresses that mobilize tens of thousands of clinicians, researchers, exhibitors, and staff to build small-sized towns for a few days. The total number of medical conferences is unknown. One source1 lists 2012 health-related conferences that took place in 2011, including 259 that were online webinars and others that occurred in physical locations around the globe. Clearly, this list is incomplete and represents a fraction of such conferences. An estimate of more than 100 000 medical meetings per year may not be unrealistic, when local meetings are also counted. The cumulative cost of these events worldwide is not possible to fathom.

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