'Medical Meccas': Using Expertise And History To Lure Meetings

For medical conferences or conventions, there are plenty of reasons for choosing one destination over another. One factor is convenience, given health professionals' time constraints. Another is geographical location, key for conventions that rotate around the country.

Once those issues are settled, attention might turn to "medical meccas," cities with long health care pedigrees or renowned medical resources, augmenting conferences that come to town.

"Often, with strong local medical resources, we can get guest speakers and I don't have to fly them in expensively," said M.J. Henderson, president of the National Conference of Gerontological Nurse Practitioners, based in Bethesda, Md.

"And, if I have an attractive destination that has a gerontological setting, it enhances my meeting."

Henderson is bringing her group to Cleveland for its 2005 annual meeting next September. A main reason: the presence of Case Western Reserve University, with a strong program in the association's specialty.

In the case of Summa Health System, a hospital group in Akron, Ohio, the decision to bring 100 board members to Cleveland last January hinged on the presence of famed Cleveland Clinic. The group is affiliated with the clinic, for one thing, and Summa wanted to take advantage of the InterContinental Hotel and Conference Center on the Cleveland Clinic campus.

"In addition, Dr. Floyd Loop, chairman of Cleveland Clinic, made the opening remarks," noted Lynn Downs, who planned the meeting for Summa.

Philadelphia is a powerful magnet for medical meetings. Up to 38 percent of all its group business is medically related, in large part due to its potent health care attractions.

There's Pennsylvania Hospital, founded in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin as the colonies' first hospital. Its historical artifacts, artwork, nursing museum and medical library make for evocative offsite venues. The Great Court is a stirring reception area, and there are modern auditoriums as well.

Other Philadelphia venues include Physick House, the home of the "father of American surgery"; the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the oldest honorary medical academy in the country; and the Mutter Museum, with a collection by the first doctor who taught with real specimens.

"We see all that as a benefit, and obviously we will take advantage of what Philadelphia has to offer as a health care community," said Patricia Burton, director of operations for the Society for Vascular Surgery, based in Chicago. She will bring her group to Philadelphia for its annual meeting in spring 2006.

Burton stressed that facilities, convenience and geographical location were primary issues in choosing Philadelphia. She'll be using the Pennsylvania Convention Center and the attached Philadelphia Marriott as her headquarters.

"The rest of it is just a tremendous benefit," she said.

Another destination that keys on medical meetings is Edinburgh, Scotland's beautiful and ancient capital. The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh will celebrate its 500th birthday in 2005-2006, and is inviting surgical specialties to the city to help it celebrate.

Local areas of expertise include cryobiology and gene therapy; Dolly, the world's first cloned sheep, was created at Edinburgh's Roslin Institute. (Dolly, who died in 2003, has been stuffed and is on view at Edinburgh's Royal Museum.)

And there are practical reasons for attending medical conferences in Edinburgh, noted Ellen Colingsworth, manager of the Edinburgh Ambassador Programme, which works to lure medical congresses.

"Conference attendees from the U.S. often use Edinburgh to recruit staff to work back in the States," she said.

Edinburgh's new Surgeons Hall will be completed in 2005 (the current one was built in 1832), and attendees also can utilize the ultra-modern Edinburgh International Conference Centre, currently undergoing expansion.

Contact Christopher Hosford at [email protected]