Academics in Absentia: An Opportunity to Rethink Conferences in the Age of Coronavirus Cancellations

Juan N. Lessing, Lauren R. Anderson, Nicholas M. Mark, Lauren A. Maggio, Steven J. Durning

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions to the academic medicine community, including the cancellation of most medical and health professions conferences. In this Perspective, the authors examine both the short- A nd longer-term implications of these cancellations, including the effects on the professional development and advancement of junior faculty and learners. While the COVID-19 pandemic is new in 2020, impediments to conference attendance and participation are not. Cost, personal responsibilities at home, and clinical duties have always restricted attendance. The authors argue that the unprecedented hardships of this pandemic present a unique opportunity to reimagine how conferences can be conducted and to rethink what it means to be part of an academic community. While there are challenges with this digital transformation of academia, there are also undeniable opportunities: Online abstracts and recorded presentations enable wider viewership, virtual sessions permit wider participation and greater interactivity, and the elimination of travel facilitates more diverse expert panel participation. The authors conclude with proposals for how conference organizers and participants can expand access by leveraging available distance learning technology and other virtual tools, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1834-1837
Number of pages4
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note



  • Conferences
  • Coronavirus
  • Academics


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