Germaine Schaefer
Sr. Director, Meetings
Heart Rhythm Society

Germaine Schaefer has been with the Heart Rhythm Society since September of 2017. Germaine manages a team that plans all the events for the Heart Rhythm Society including the annual Scientific Sessions with over 11,000 in total attendance.

Germaine is a graduate of NovaSoutheastern University and began her career at the American Diabetes Association in 1996. She put in a year at a hotel as Convention Services Manager before deciding she liked the planner side better. She is currently a member of ASAE and PCMA.

Heart Rhythm Specialists from Around the Globe Will Take Pulse of New Tech in Boston
Mukesh Buch
April 27, 2018

What is the history of the Heart Rhythm Society?

The Heart Rhythm Society is a non-profit, membership organization dedicated to the field of cardiac pacing and electrophysiology. In 1979, four electrophysiologists recognized the need for a society and founded the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology, or NASPE, in Boston. In 2004, NASPE celebrated its 25th anniversary, moved to Washington, DC and changes its name to Heart Rhythm Society to better reflect its membership constituencies and expanded mission.

Today, the society is an international leader in science, education and advocacy for cardiac arrhythmias professionals and patients. Its members and partners include clinicians, scientists, industry and government. It represents more than 5,500 cardiac pacing and electrophysiology professionals in over 70 countries.

We publish a monthly journal, the HeartRhythm Journal, which is the top research publication in the field; an email newsletter, Keeping Pace, which provides notifications of society programs and the related developments; and updates on the clinical documents and guidelines. We also maintain a learning center designed to meet the education needs of physicians, scientists, and allied professionals in the area of heart rhythm disorders.

We have about 11,000 attendees, about 6,600 of them are heart rhythm professionals and 30% international.

Where and when will the society’s annual meeting be held this year?

The Heart Rhythm Society’s 39th Annual Scientific Sessions will be held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. It’s a four-day event starting Wednesday, May 9th and running through May 12th. We expect to have about 12,000 attendees at the meeting this year with 7,600 being heart rhythm professionals. Of that number, about 40% will be coming from outside the United States.

The attendees will include 800 of the world’s most noted experts in cardiac rhythm management who will serve as faculty instructors for our 200 educational sessions. The classes will cover topic such as: pacing, defibrillation, clinical arrhythmia management, ablation, pharmacology, genetics, basic science, and related health policy.

How will this year’s event differ from previous years?

One of our objectives this year is to focus on enhancing the person-to-person experience. We are working on strategies to increase networking opportunities, attendees will benefit more from attending the meeting than if they were to simply read a journal or watch a webcast. Also, one of our keynote speakers this year is Professor Sherry Turkle who has done research on how technology is interrupting human communication. She will be giving a talk on how personal interactions are being affected by the changing nature of technology.

Our Scientific Sessions Program Committee Chair, Dr. Andrea Russo, reflects that view in that she is looking forward to the upcoming meeting to reconnect with old friends, meet people from diverse backgrounds and learn from global opinion leaders.

Can you describe the educational tracks for this year’s meeting?

We have divided the meeting up into nine specialty tracks that focus on the primary areas of attendee interest. The Allied Professionals track is the area where we have seen the most growth in the past few years, so we have beefed up that offering. The Basic/Translational Science track provides a comprehensive overview on the state-of-the-art studies on ion channel regulation, and the Cardiovascular Implantable Electronic Devices track coves the latest information on pacemakers.

Among the other tracks are Catheter Ablation, Clinical Electrophysiology, Heart Failure, and Pediatric & Adult Congenital Heart Disease. There is also a track on Policy Payment & Practice, which assists members who run their own practices.

The nine tracks give us the ability to have sessions that cover all of the specialties of members working on the EP team, whether a physician, nurse practitioner or technician. At the same time, we can offer a wide variety of deep-dive sessions that cover every aspect on those nine tracks.

One thing we are doing differently this year is looking at ways to enhance the person-to-person experience.

What other sessions do you have planned?

We have six Posters Sessions planned this year. The Posters Sessions are a way for scientists and doctors undertaking research in electrophysiology to present their findings to the community prior to publication. The sessions give researchers the opportunity for peer feedback. Posters sessions are the heart and soul of scientific meetings and match the session tracks.

The sessions are valuable for presenters who are at an early stage in their careers as scientists. Presenting at our meeting gives them access to as many as 7,000 professionals that might have an interest in their research. Being a presenter is very prestigious and, not only gives them exposure, but hopefully gives them a boost along their career path.

We also have what we call Hyde Park, where attendees who have something they want to share, but that is not covered in any other part of the meeting. It gives them the opportunity to talk to their fellow attendees for 15 minutes. We also provide an opportunity for senior physician to present the details of a particular case and explain their diagnosis and treatment options.

Are there any other programs that you would like to highlight?

Another interesting feature of the event is our global quiz competition for EP Fellows-in-Training called the Heart Rhythm Bowl. Attendees can visit our website and take a quiz. If they score high enough, they will get invited to participate in the Bowl during the event. They will be assigned to a team, which will go-head-to head with other teams and be tested for their knowledge of electrophysiology.

How many exhibitors are expected this year?

We usually have about 150 companies, which are primarily medical device and equipment manufacturers. They are companies that make pacemakers, catheters, and other devices used to treat or monitor heart rhythm diseases.

We also have a number of information technology companies who specialize in electronic records and documentation that are being required by insurance companies. Practice management services is another area represented, which focuses on tracking patient’s follow-up care. There will also be several pharmaceutical companies, related associations, publishers that specialize in the field.

Do you have major sponsors for the show?

We have 20 to 30 sponsors covering a variety of sponsorship programs. For example, we offer Corporate Symposia where a company will present two-hour targeted sessions. Those sessions occur before or after our official programming schedule and give companies the opportunity to focus on specific topics or products and, at the same time, give attendees another opportunity to expand their learning experience.

How does attendance look this year and what is the split up?

The Boston location has historically been very good for us; but, due to rule changes in Europe concerning physician sponsorships, we are experiencing a reduction in international attendees this year.

Of the 11,000 expected attendees, 72% of them are physicians, 7% are scientists and 21% are scattered among the allied professionals. In terms of experience, about 70% are professionals that have been working in the field for six or more years.

What are the advantages of registering early for your show?

Early registration helps us prepare for and organize the event. It gives us an indication of the number of attendees, so we can make sure we have the need resources and facilities. It also gives us time to finalize the meeting app so we can make it available to registered attendees. Once registered, the attendees can then start making appointments with exhibitors or figuring out which sessions they want to attend and coordinate their schedules with colleagues.

Early registration also makes it easier for companies planning pre- or post-events to contact potential guests with invitations. Attendees traveling to the meeting and seeking accommodations have a wider variety of hotels available if they register early.

We keep our website updated with new information as it becomes available, but our app is something that all attendees should download in advance as it provides the most accurate information on speakers and sessions. We recognize that attendees are investing their time away from their home, families, and office, so we want to make sure that they get the best possible value for their investment.

The last thing I want to mention is that we capture each session for webcasting in the future. Attendees who are unable to make it to every session of interest can view the slides and hear the audio later from the comfort of their home or office. We don’t get permission to record all the sessions, but for the most part many of the sessions are online and available to attendees or those who purchase Heart Rhythm On Demand. Registered attendees get access for free, except for one-day registrants or people who come in under the student rate. Anyone who is unable to attend the meeting can purchase access to the sessions separately.

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