Dear ACHA Members and Supporters,
After much analysis and discussion, ACHA has made the final decision to transition our ACHA 9th National Conference to a virtual event. We thank you for remaining patient as we rescheduled our event twice throughout the last two years with consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic and the safety of our attendees at the forefront.
The two years of postponements have also allowed us to reflect on other considerations beyond the pandemic that have impacted this decision as well. The simple truth is that much has changed – within ACHA and within our country – since 2018 when we first announced this conference and started planning. While we know the National Conference has been a staple of ACHA that has made our organization unique from its earliest days, there are now many other programs at ACHA that make us one of a kind as well and enable us to reach more of the CHD population in an effective manner.
While we know this news will be disappointing to many (as it is to us, too), we want to be transparent about the factors that went into this decision – after it became apparent through low registration that our audience may not be ready to travel to a large, multi-day, indoor gathering yet.
- Impact vs. Cost: ACHA has an obligation to be the best stewards possible of the funds that our generous donors provide. For us to continue to be of value to the CHD community, the strong financial health of ACHA must be maintained and we take many factors into account for each program we provide to the community. For example, it will cost ACHA roughly the same in 2022 to host an in-person National Conference as it will to operate the ACHA ACHD Accreditation Program for the year. One will impact approximately 350 people; the other impacts the 77,000+ patients seen at our 45 accredited centers across 27 states.
- Inclusivity: It is no secret that attending an ACHA National Conference is a large expense for our patients as well. We have heard this consistently through the years. From hotel to travel to conference fees, these costs have only increased with each conference. As ACHA is committed to inclusivity, we feel we cannot move forward with an event whose total cost (approximately $900 per person) makes it impossible for many in our community to participate. We have concluded that moving forward, the expanded use of virtual and local in-person events enable us to best reach our constituents in a manner that is more cost effective for both ACHA and our members.
- COVID-19 safety considerations: The ACHA Medical Advisory Board (MAB) has been advising our safety decisions throughout this process and has given its final recommendation to transition to a virtual conference over an in-person conference. While it is true the number of COVID cases has improved greatly as of late, the fact is that we do not know what the future holds, and we do not want to put any of our high-risk attendees at more risk. We debated various safety measures – masking requirements, proof of vaccines and boosters, testing protocols, isolation procedures for those who test positive, restrictions on gatherings and accessing public spaces such as the Mall of America itself – and ultimately decided that even if held, the experience for this in-person event would be very different from past conferences.
As our Medical Advisory Chair Dr. Arwa Saidi, put it, "While extremely disappointed, the MAB supports the decision to hold a virtual national conference this year. We regret that we will not have a chance to meet in Minnesota, but I know that the conference planning committee will work hard with our patient partners to ensure that we replicate the camaraderie and friendships that we enjoy when we attend in-person meetings."
While we are transitioning the format from in-person to virtual, please note that the 9th Annual ACHA National Conference is still very much "on" for June 23-25, 2022!
We will offer three days of virtual programming that will include several exciting general sessions, multiple rounds of breakout sessions for both our patient/family and medical professional tracks, daily social hours to catch up with peers across the country, regional breakout sessions, and a virtual exhibit hall where all attendees will be able to interact with our conference sponsors as if together in-person. Best of all, we will be able to offer all these educational and social opportunities to you for a fraction of the original cost.
So, what’s next? We will be in contact with those of you who had previously registered for the conference during the week of March 21 to discuss refund options. And we are excited to announce that registration for the 2022 ACHA Virtual National Conference will open the week of March 28!
With appreciation for your continued support,
President & CEO