Cell Biology Program, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, USA.
Address correspondence to: Paul A. Marks, Cell Biology Program, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, New York, New York 10065, USA. Phone: (212) 639-6568; Fax: (212) 639-2861; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
First published April 1, 2008 - More info
I attended my first meeting of the Young Turks (the ASCI) in 1953. As usual, it was held the first week in May in Atlantic City. There were at least three aspects of the Young Turks meetings in Atlantic City that were important, indeed critical, to those of us aspiring to careers in academic medicine. The first was to be invited by your postdoctoral mentor — your first experience, and it truly was an experience — and remained so even as you grew old enough to get to an annual meeting on your own. After the first meeting, it became a required right of passage to attend annually. The second was to submit an abstract and have it accepted for presentation at the plenary session. The third, and perhaps the most important — certainly the most intensely enjoyable — was to save plenty of time to talk to colleagues and explore potential opportunities for positions with the older, established attendees. Schmoozing was part of the opportunity of being at the meetings — and, of course, you frequently heard impressive science. It was a major learning experience, made possible in part by the intimacy of the meeting and its site.
In 1953 all the meetings would be held in the Haddon Hall Hotel. The Young Turks would meet in the ballroom, and this was followed by the meeting of the Old Turks (the AAP) in the Vernon Room — with probably fewer than 1,000 total attendance. I do not remember the exact year, but it was a wrenching experience when two realizations overwhelmed the Young Turks. First, the attendance was so large that the meetings had to be moved to the Convention Hall across the Boardwalk from Haddon Hall — a loss of intimacy, but not too bad. Second, the number of abstracts submitted increased annually, and to provide a greater opportunity for more involvement of the good science, simultaneous section meetings were scheduled — none in conflict with the plenary sessions.
The presentations themselves were generally very impressive, well rehearsed, and almost always precisely ten minutes in length (with five minutes for questions). The rule was that slides should be clear, with just enough on a slide for one to grasp its content. In fact, it was de rigueur to show a slide that had so much material as to be unintelligible.
Certainly, a most exciting and rewarding aspect of these meetings was the opportunity to relax and discuss our science, our careers, and our colleagues.
The hallmark of the Atlantic City meetings was not only a fine level of scientific presentations, but also the sense of intimacy that we experienced as young professionals focused on the best in biomedical sciences with colleagues who shared the same value systems with the same competitive spirit. Ideas were clearly about people, places, and scientific questions. Collaborations were established and above all friendships that have lasted through decades of our careers.
It is difficult and wrong to stand in the way of growth and progress. When in the 1970s the meetings were moved initially to Washington, DC, and subsequently to other venues, the quality that made the Young Turks’ annual sojourn so special for so many of us was to some extent diminished. The biomedical enterprise has continued to flourish and grow — discoveries unthinkable even two decades ago are occurring almost daily. We have memories, but the biomedical sciences are much more exciting today!