The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) this week convenes its second virtual Spring Clinical Meetings (SCM) in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic figures prominently in the 2021 conference. For example, of the 381 scientific posters being presented this year, 36 report on COVID-19-related studies. In addition, a number of general sessions focus on COVID-19, including “Transplantation in the Time of COVID-19” (April 6, 2:30 to 3:30 PM ET), “Acute Kidney Injury in the COVID Era” (April 7, 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM ET), “Update on APOL1: AKI, Collapsing GN and COVID-19, Transplantation” (April 9, 2:00 PM to 3:15 PM ET) and “Public Health and the Nephrology Response to COVID-19” (April 10, 1:30 PM to 3:15 PM ET).

A live presentation on April 7, 3:30 PM to 5:15 PM ET, showcases 4 late-breaking studies: 

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Other live presentations include the April 8 NKF presidential address by Paul Palevsky, MD, from 11:00 AM to 11:30 AM ET, and a keynote address by Aletha Maybank, MD, MPHD, titled “Operationalizing Racial Justice” from 11:30 AM to 12:00 PM ET.

Also on April 8, from 7:30 PM to 8:30 PM ET, NKF will present awards to the following individuals:

Shaul G. Massry Award — James Lash, MD, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Nephrology at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. He is presenting the Shaul G. Massry Distinguished Lecture titled, “The Impact of Sleep on Kidney Outcomes: Implications for Practice.

Medical Advisory Board Distinguished Service Award — Shubha Ahya, MD, professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a clinical nephrologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago.

NKF Public Service Award — Aliza Thompson, MD, deputy director of the Division of Cardiology and Nephrology at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Joel D. Kopple Award — Shivam Joshi, MD, a nephrologist, internist, and plant-based physician, who practices at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue in New York City

Council of Nephrology Nurses and Technicians Award — Maria “Rosley” DeClaro, RN, BSN, CNN, a registered nurse at Fresenius Kidney Care for more than 20 years.

Tara Chang, MD, co-chair of the SCM 2021 program committee, said this year’s conference builds on what was learned from the 2020 meeting, which demonstrated some advantages of an all-virtual platform over an in-person meeting.

A virtual conference makes it possible for planners to be creative and flexible with respect to how long sessions could be and the number of speakers who could participate in each session. The preconference sessions offer 5 or 6 hours of content, including approximately 2 hours of live presentations, she noted. If all of this content were offered at an in-person conference, it would have to be spread over 2 days in part because of the limited capacity of meeting rooms.

In addition, the virtual format engages people who would not otherwise be able to attend in person, including speakers. “We were able to get folks to agree to participate who normally would not have been able to,” Dr Chang said. “With our limited budget, we couldn’t invite people from Australia and Asia and Africa.” One of the keynote speakers had a scheduling conflict, but was able to pre-record her presentation, she said.

As a result of the aforementioned advantages of a virtual meeting format, Dr Chang said, she believes virtual presentations will become part of future in-person NKF meetings.