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The ACHA Community, Together at Last!

Friday, August 13, 2021

By Christy Sillman

It is said that necessity is the mother of all invention, and we’ve certainly experienced some degree of this since the spring of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to dramatically adjust our ways of life. For ACHA, one of the greatest impacts was on the planned National Conference in 2020.

I’ve been to three prior ACHA National Conferences (Los Angeles in 2011, Chicago in 2014, and Orlando in 2017), with my first conference being a truly transformative experience for me. It may sound hyperbolic, but I discovered my life’s purpose at that conference. Talk about bang for your buck! I went into my first ACHA conference as a shy observer, and left fueled and driven to make a difference for the ACHD community. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t attended that ACHA National Conference.

I was so excited to go to Minnesota in 2020 to reconvene with many friends and mentors, and serve as co-chair for the conference with Dr. Wayne Franklin, but as with most things in 2020—our plans were put on pause.

ACHA and the conference planning committee knew that during these challenging times, we needed to find a way to bring the ACHD community together in a way that was accessible and inclusive. Just last month, on July 10, ACHA held the first-ever Virtual Empowerment Symposium. This was a half-day symposium with a registration cost of $15. We brought together more than 64 faculty members including doctors, NPs, PAs, nurses, psychologists, patients, family members, and ACHA staff to present a wide range of topics. Close to 150 people registered for the event, and 25 of those registrants were new to ACHA.

After weeks of planning and coordinating the virtual sessions, I was so happy to help provide virtual ACHA education and bring together the community. I felt it was a great success, especially for a maiden voyage into virtual conferencing. I hope that ACHA can continue to offer similar virtual meetings in the future as many people can be limited in transportation, finances, and time off to attend in-person events.

However, this was just the taste of what the in-person national conference is like.

There is one component that just can’t be captured virtually—seeing all your smiling, beautiful faces and socializing organically. That is where the magic is found at the ACHA National Conferences. I’ve watched lifelong friendships emerge, danced the electric slide with my cardiologist, and even saw a few romances bloom at national conferences. There is nothing more powerful than standing in a room full of people who can say “I get it” and truly understand the CHD journey.

I’m so excited to know that we will be together again soon. We have a new date for the 9th National Conference: June 23 through June 25, 2022, at the Radisson Blue Mall of America in Bloomington, MN. We will have three days of learning, sharing, togetherness, and lots of laughter. We will be continuing to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that we are gathering as safely as possible. Registration is open now, click here to register!

We are working hard to create an engaging and fruitful conference. I hope that many of you will join us. Meeting new ACHD community members and seeing those I know and adore will be exactly the reboot I need after these challenging times in the COVID-19 pandemic.


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The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.