Heart Failure Meeting Faces #Manel Reckoning

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After the all-male (and largely white) faculty lineup at the Heart Failure 2021 virtual meeting from Los Angeles drew ire on Twitter, organizers made swift changes.

Both program directors and all 23 speakers originally scheduled to lecture at the small subspecialty symposium March 12-13 are men.

“Gentleman, it’s 2021 and there are soooooo many women in heart failure for this entire conference to be all men. Do better,” Nasrien E. Ibrahim, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, tweeted on Wednesday with pictures of the then-current faculty list.

Ironically, Wednesday was also National Women Physicians Day.

Ibrahim called out the organizers for lack of effort, writing “you didn’t search hard enough.” Others weren’t so generous.

Akhil Gulati, MD, tweeted: “Wow, that’s almost hard to do in Heart Failure where there is an ABUNDANCE of leading women in the field, even more than in many other specialties.”

In fact, program director Uri Elkayam, MD, who has been involved with the conference (also known as the LA Heart Failure Symposium) since its inception, said he didn’t try at all. He told MedPage Today that he simply chose those who had made contributions on topics he was interested in for the conference without paying attention to gender.

“It was an oversight — not intentional — and will not happen again,” he said. “This program has been going on for 25 years and we have a record of participation of both females and minorities.”

The sole Black man on the panel, Clyde Yancy, MD, tweeted: “I’m disappointed. I have communicated with the program leadership. This is wrong. All express deep regrets for failing our peers. As a senior leader in the field-I apologize. All directors & speakers are accountable. The program is under revision. Thanks for being strong.”

Another panelist, Stavros Drakos, MD, PhD, of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, tweeted, “There are so many exceptional options to replace many of us so we can have #diversity! Now that we know (which is our mistake that we did not ask to see the agenda earlier) we will contact the organizers of the conference and I am confident that they will make this happen asap!”

Within a day of Ibrahim’s initial tweet, she noted the swift success of the Twitter response, noting that “many panelists have stepped down and recommended women in their place.”

Elkayam, of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, told MedPage Today that six women have now been added to the program, mostly as replacements from the same research teams. (On Friday morning, however, the published roster only showed four.)

“Something good came out of it,” said Elkayam, referring to the Twitter backlash. “If I had this oversight that means that I didn’t think about it as a major criteria for selection, but I guess I was wrong.”

Female physician advocacy group ‘Women As One’ tweeted that a “a genuine effort from all program organizers (and endorsers) to put steps in place to simply double check their programs rosters for this issue. It isn’t a hard thing to do, and we can help where needed.”

The meeting has been promoted by the organizer, Complete Conference Management, as officially endorsed by the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA), as it was last year.

However, HFSA tweeted that it had still been under review for 2021. “We asked that they remove the endorsement logo from their existing marketing info. Due to the circumstances, HFSA will not be endorsing this meeting,” it said.

Benoy Shah, MD, president of the British Heart Valve Society, offered some wording he uses to check prospectively that he’s not getting involved in a “manel,” because the “onus is on the meeting organizers/steering committee to get it right, but until they do men invited to meetings can definitely help.” He tweeted, “I’ve only learnt to do this in the past few months, but societies will get the message soon.”

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