Letter from Program Chair

      Dear Colleagues,
      It has been an honor for me to serve the Society as this year's Program Chair. I hope that each and every one of you will enjoy this extremely exciting program. It would not be possible without a great deal of hard work and intellectual input from the many authors who contributed. Again, we had a record number of submissions, 1073 in total, from hundreds of institutions both here and from all over the world. As the number of international submissions continues to increase, so do the scope and stature of our meeting.
      The most difficult part of my task was to identify those abstracts we could not accept because of time and space constraints—very unfortunate given the outstanding quality of the abstracts. Each abstract was sent out to four reviewers and the top 200 were additionally reviewed by four senior reviewers. In this program, there are 68 oral presentations and 597 poster presentations. To those whose abstracts did not get accepted, allow me to say that it in no way reflected on the quality or the hard work that went into them. I wish we could have accepted them all. I hope we have been successful in providing you with a balance of basic and clinical science from a variety of institutions and countries.
      This program would not have been possible without the work of the general and senior reviewers who provided feedback within a tight schedule. I would especially like to thank Pat Stahr for her guidance and shepherding through the review process. Her experience, and that of her staff, is invaluable. I would also like to thank Jay Iams, our President, for his honest and thoughtful input interjected at strategic times during this program's formulation. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Roger Newman (Poster Chair), George Saade (Postgraduate Course Chair), and Washington Hill (Scientific Forums Chair) for their assistance. They will personally thank those involved in their respective programs, but their contributors should be acknowledged here for they deserve a special recognition for much hard work. Special thanks also go to our Luncheon Roundtable speakers who all willingly agreed to participate upon my invitation. In advance, I would also like to thank our oral and poster session Judges. They will have a difficult time selecting from among the many excellent presentations. Finally, thanks to Al Robichaux, our Local Arrangements Chair. What better person for the job than a native of New Orleans!
      This year, at the suggestion of George Saade, we have added two new pre- and post-meeting workshops, targeted primarily to fellows-in-training. One will be on laboratory techniques (coordinated by Amy Murtha) and the other will be on epidemiology (coordinated by George Macones). These are pilot projects, but if they do well, we will continue them in the future.
      I am grateful this program is presented within a newly renovated and updated Hilton Hotel. We found the facilities quite satisfactory when we toured last May. I am especially pleased with the large, single poster room. After many conversations with the audio-visual team, we think we have mastered all technical difficulties and we believe all will go without a hitch.
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