American Heart Association Delivers 30,000 Attendees to New Orleans

The American Heart Association (AHA) concluded its 2008 annual meeting last week in New Orleans, where it met for the first time since 2004. The meeting, which was expected to attract approximately 30,000 doctors, nurses, pharmaceutical reps and other health care professionals to the Crescent City, is one of only a few major conventions taking place in New Orleans this year, according to the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"They are among the largest in the country right now," New Orleans CVB President and CEO J. Stephen Perry told The Times-Picayune. "I would certainly characterize American Heart as being one of the top five customers of the city."

Billed by the New Orleans CVB as New Orleans' largest citywide convention—called that because of its impact not only on the convention center, but also on local hotels, restaurants and retailers—AHA's Scientific Sessions conference took place at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center for five days, from Saturday, Nov. 8, through Wednesday, Nov. 12.

The meeting was celebrated by many locals, who at the request of the CVB wore red on Nov. 10 in recognition of the association and its economic impact on the city, which the Times says continues to struggle in the wake of Katrina as well as the current economic downturn.

"Meetings like American Heart are now a rarity in New Orleans," the paper wrote in an article last week. "As recently as five years ago, the city played host to at least a dozen citywides every fall. Only a handful are scheduled this year. What's more, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center will host just half the number of attendees in the past three months of this year as it did during the same period last year."

Having met there for Scientific Sessions in 2004, AHA returned to the Big Easy for the first time since Katrina in February, when it hosted 3,000 attendees as part of the International Stroke Conference (ISC). According to the New Orleans CVB, AHA is the first organization in the health care industry to bring two major meetings to New Orleans in the same year since 2005.

"We are excited to return to New Orleans and show our support for this great city," ISC Program Chair Phillip B. Gorelick, M.D., said in a statement last year, prior to this year's meetings. "Attending the International Stroke Conference is not only an amazing educational experience, but also gives you the opportunity to financially support an amazing city as its citizens continue their recovery efforts."

Added AHA's Scientific Sessions Chairman Gordon F. Tomaselli, M.D., FAHA, "New Orleans is definitely prepared to host a major event such as Scientific Sessions and I am proud to support the decision to return to this great city."

For more information about AHA, visit www.americanheart.org.