NCRA 2023: From the Virtual & In Person Perspectives

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Registry Partners

Two of our Oncology Quality Team members recently had the opportunity to attend the 2023 NCRA Annual Educational Conference, one in person and one in the virtual setting. We caught up with both to hear their individual perspectives and experiences. 

Melissa Chapman, Quality Consultant, traveled to sunny San Diego, California to attend the conference in person and present her award winning poster, “Abstracting Head and Neck: A CTRs Prospective”. Melissa admits that in person attendance was a little overwhelming at first, with so many possibilities and speakers to choose from. After many weeks of viewing the various presentation options on the jam-packed conference brochure guide and careful consideration, she mapped out her 3 days right down to the very last presentation. Next, it was on to meeting up and networking with colleagues current and past, as well as meeting new colleagues. “There were so many smiling faces, so many hugs to current & past colleagues, and even more handshakes to those I’ve never met before. There are no words to describe how wonderful it is to connect with others in the Cancer Registry field. It was a wonderful event which pulled us all together by sharing ideas and individual experiences”. 

Heather Donohue, Educator & Internship Program Manager attended virtually. She shared, “When we reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic, we tend to think of challenges and obstacles, but we’ve also heard about the “silver linings”. The option to attend the Annual NCRA Educational Conference in the virtual setting is one of those “silver linings”. Prior to 2020, CTRs had to attend the conference “in person”, which was a challenge for many. Travel, lodging, and registration expenses seems to be the biggest obstacle standing in front of “in person” attendance, although some shared they were still not ready to attend large group settings according to some group chatter in the virtual “chat box”, Heather explained. “The virtual option has opened the door to allow many more CTRs to attend and participate in the abundance of education and information shared from some of the best CTRs, Physicians, and other members of the Cancer Registry Community”, she added. She went on to say with each year, the virtual platform and organization of materials shared has improved, with this year really hitting the mark. NCRA left no details uncovered for 2023, right down to the “wait time” music. In years past, attendees were subject to the typical “elevator music”, but this year CTRs were commenting on how pleased they were with the ‘funky jazz beats’ playing–now that is a first for “wait-time” music! Virtual attendees had the option to add a photo to their profile along with 3 professional and 3 “fun” badges, facilitating a closer connection to other attendees, and giving a quick glimpse of their more candid sides. One of the fun badge options was, “runs with scissors”, another, “Yada, yada, yada”. “It was fun to see colleagues from across the Nation display their personalities in a fun way,” Heather added. The “chat” box was very active with many emoji’s flowing as CTRs greeted one another or showed gratitude towards speakers, giving a more “connected” feel. 

Melissa and Heather both agreed that the major standard setter update sessions were important to attend, as well as any other sessions related to abstracting and coding.

While Melissa attended sessions from all offered tracks, her favorite session was from the hospital track, titled “Radiation: The Machines, The Plans, The Coding” by Ashley Maxey who is a Radiation Therapist (BSRT(T)) and CTR. Ashley reviewed everything from the types of equipment used to simulate and deliver treatment plans, to the various types of radiation treatment, understanding the documentation used for treatment planning and summaries and how to read those documents. On the virtual side of things, only the hospital track presentations were offered “live”, although all other track presentations will be available for viewing later this month. Heather really had a hard time choosing a favorite and shared that the overall theme of many presentations was early detection, genetics, genomics, and precision medicine which was fascinating and informative. “It was promising to learn that the direction of cancer treatment is really moving towards tailoring treatment to the individual versus using a broad regimen that might not work for all”. Heather explained that while she had a good understanding of the various oncogenes collected in the SSDI’s, it was really fascinating to learn how some genetic mutations cause activation of cancer suppressor genes and what that means for the patient, their treatment, and prognosis, as well as new advancements in treatment options when mutations occur. Heather shared once again being “wowed” by presenter Steven Hardy, PhD FRCPath of NHS England. “It’s great to hear advancements from our colleagues “across the pond” as Steven refers to England. Currently, the NHS has the world’s largest clinical trial underway for a new blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear, with 140,000 people enrolled” (more on that can be found here). This is part of the NHS’s initiative on early cancer detection, with results expected in 2023 with plans to expand the trial to another one million people in 2024 and 2025, if proven successful.

Also noteworthy were the Physician-CTR co-presentations on breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. Both Heather and Melissa agreed that all 3 presentations were excellent and packed full of great abstracting information. It was great to hear the Physician’s perspective of these real patient cases, and to see how both the Physician and the CTR learn from one another during these collaborative presentations. 

Whether in person or attending virtually, the NCRA 2023 Educational Conference was a remarkable experience with a tremendous amount of valuable information absorbed and brought back to share with the teams! 

Graphic courtesy of Iryna Vladymyrova on iStock