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First-Timers Take on the 9th Annual Conference

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Now that the tumult of the holiday season has passed, I have been able to pull together my reflections as a first-time attendee of the 9th Annual Conference on the Science of Dissemination and Implementation in Health, here in Washington, DC. As the newest member to the Implementation Science team at NCI, this was my first conference in the field of implementation science and was a delightful addition to my knowledge base in substance and direction. Being new to the DC area, I had the pleasure of both battling the illustrious Washington Metro system and making the tough calls between the concurrent sessions, equally challenging in their own way! 

As a community-based physician who has practiced in low-resource settings, I was drawn to behavioral research that could have an impact at the population level. My field experience, largely based in women’s health, aimed to incorporate research into everyday clinical practice, so that my patients were the recipients of evidence-based care. My interest in implementation science was captured well by Dr. Roy Rosin’s keynote presentation where he provided examples of the types of innovations in health care like those I envision working for at-risk populations, such as the “Lifesaving dots,” which are cheap, easy, and fit into the context. In speaking to the “The Innovation Conundrum,” I appreciated it when Dr. Rosin emphasized getting contextual, rapid learning, clear graduation criteria for a product, packaging innovations to spread, and having mutually beneficial relationships—for implementing innovations in practice.

This year’s conference challenged attendees to think outside the box and test new ideas in health care quickly and efficiently. After the opening plenary that explored the balance between adaptation and fidelity, the variety of topics covered during the concurrent sessions kept the momentum going. As a first-timer, I was very taken with the levels of attendance at the lunch sessions because I think it’s safe to say some conferences find themselves poorly attended at the twelve o’clock hour. In the discussion of de-implementation, moderated by colleagues Wynne Norton and David Chambers, participants were asked to brainstorm what the term meant and what the process would look like. Very aptly, Dr. Peter Selby compared it to a game of Jenga, where we needed to think carefully about how each piece comes apart in reference to a health care system de-implementing existing practices.

It was hard to choose from among the topic areas, but the activity on Twitter made following the overarching conference conversation (tagged #DIscience16) easy. I found this conference unique in that there was a poster slam session and lunch discussions that allowed for several networking opportunities and continued conversations. This was by far the most musically inclined conference I have ever attended. The musical metaphors and cartoon presentations used by the speakers drove home the point that innovations need to be both accessible and grounded in the real world.

Overall, there were lots of discussions of research conceptualizations, use of theories and frameworks, and choosing appropriate methods for implementation research. As my interest lies in implementation science around cancer screening, I am looking forward to the upcoming International Cancer Screening Network meeting and feel galvanized to continue exploring the field.

What sessions spoke to you? Where you also surprised by the relevance of The Beatles to the field (#heyjude)? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!