The American Academy of Dermatology Conference with Menas Kizoulis
Ever thought about the purpose of medical conferences and who attends them?
Nearly every industry—from automotive to medicine—has its own set of conferences. This is because they present a unique opportunity for experts in the field to connect and discuss new trends and opportunities related to their line of work.
After two years of virtual meetings, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) held its 2022 dermatology conference in Boston, Massachusetts from March 25-29, where more than 400 scientific posters were presented. The annual meeting focuses on dermatology—the study of skin—and is considered the largest conference of its kind in the world.
So, what does a day at AAD look like for a scientist? Last month, we followed Menas Kizoulis, Scientific Engagement Director of Skin Health, to learn firsthand what a day’s work looks like over the course of the conference.
6:00 AM – 8:00 AM: Fuel’s Gold
In his role, Menas focuses on driving scientific leadership and advocacy among healthcare professionals and consumers. This means he must constantly stay on top of the latest scientific trends and work with groups across the Skin Health team to put out the next wave of research.
As the largest Skin Health conference in the world, AAD is an important time to showcase our advances in dermatology research. So, while at the conference, the first two hours of Menas’ day are spent focusing on “fuel’s gold” that is, the “fuel” he needs to be “golden.” While he typically doesn’t have time for a full-fledged breakfast, Menas always makes time to grab a coffee—his first source of fuel—and a granola bar if he’s lucky, which he enjoys while fine-tuning knowledge of his second fuel source—research.
With over 20 years of experience, Menas has skin health down to a science. Even so, he makes it a point to re-familiarize himself with all of the dermatology research being presented to prepare for any questions that may be asked ahead of time, and to ensure key points remain top of mind.
“One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when it comes to conferences, you can never be too prepared,” says Menas. “The science may be familiar, but questions from the audience can vary—and even when I’m sitting in the audience, understanding our own core science and ensuring I’m following the latest insights in dermatology help me ask better questions.”
Each year, Menas says there is usually a handful of young scientists who’ve never been to a conference before. He always tries to make it a point to share any wisdom that may be helpful so that they feel prepared—but also excited—for a “first” in their career.
8:00 AM – 10:00 AM: Putting Prep to the Test
During the mid-morning, Menas typically finds himself in connection mode. Whether he’s giving refreshers to fellow scientists on the key research we’re presenting at the conference or attending poster presentations, he stays in constant connection with his Research & Development team and other members of the skin health community. But even as an attendee of a poster presentation, Menas’ morning prep always comes in handy.
What’s a poster presentation, you ask?
In general, a poster presentation is a visual representation of research. Most times, during poster presentations, the author of the research will walk attendees, like dermatologists and other skin scientists, through the thinking behind their study, including what inspired the research, how the study was conducted and the research findings and key takeaways.
To make poster presentations more engaging, those attending the presentation are encouraged to ask questions. And while nearly all attendees at AAD have a skin health focus, many have different specialties, such as “surgery” for diseases such as skin cancer or “cosmetics,” where treatments are used to improve the appearance of skin. “This diversity in experience often brings unique perspectives to poster presentations and can make for great discussion and connection,” said Menas.
At this year’s AAD meeting, the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health team presented 11 posters highlighting our scientific solutions for healthier skin, ranging from the treatment of skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, to evaluating how mental stress impacts skin integrity, and a cutting-edge study using 3D modeling to look at external factors impacting skin. These posters not only represent research that was nearly a year in the making, but also demonstrate our commitment to innovating beyond the visible layer and taking an integrated approach to advancing and promoting skin health.
10:00 AM – 5:00 PM: The Booth Boom
One of the biggest attractions at a medical conference are the exhibit booths, which are large, constructed displays that exhibit products, services, new technologies and more. Hundreds of exhibit booths were on display at AAD this year.
The exhibit booth area, also called “the exhibit floor,” opened at 10 AM and closed at 5 PM. Each day, before stepping into the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health booth, Menas took a minute to walk around the exhibit floor and take in his surroundings. This was one of the first times Menas was back at an in-person meeting since the start of the pandemic, which he found very exciting.
Inside of the booth, thousands of attendees came to visit to learn more about the science behind our products. “We’ve been virtual for so long that our team had to relearn what in-person conference engagement looked like. But it was great to see so many engaged faces.”
5:00 PM – 8:00 PM: Connect and Reflect
AAD is by no means a 9 to 5 job. Even after the booth closes, there are often networking events for skin scientists, students, doctors, and dermatology organizations which Menas makes sure to attend. But even if for a few minutes, at the end of each day at the booth, Menas takes a moment to reflect. Pulling off a successful week at AAD takes months of preparation—and planning for this year’s conference, which began in Fall 2021, was no exception.
Teams from various parts of the company, including Research & Development, hosted weekly meetings ironing out logistics for the conference and, Menas says, the momentum tends to pick up speed once you arrive on-site.
“Each day at AAD was filled with meetings, interviews, and events. Of course, you get tired, but, at the same time, there’s a feeling of inspiration because we have so much to be proud of,” said Menas.
“Conferences like AAD present a unique opportunity for us to not only highlight our smart scientists and robust research programs, but to also understand what health care providers (HCPs) are looking for so we can leverage those insights to continue to develop innovative skin health solutions that doctors can trust. Of course, it’s also an important time to showcase our skin health expertise to the very people who inspire our products—the many consumers around the world that we serve.”