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Attendance drops at ISMRM meeting after SARS imposes two-month delay


Booth traffic shows little difference from pastThe two-month delay of the annual meeting of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) imposed by concerns about SARS impacted the attendance of both

Booth traffic shows little difference from past

The two-month delay of the annual meeting of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) imposed by concerns about SARS impacted the attendance of both delegates and vendors, but the effect was minimal, according to the society.

Slightly fewer than 3200 delegates made the trek to Toronto in mid-July, according to registration figures accumulated by the society. The total was 25% lower than the number who had initially registered for the postponed May meeting, although it was about the same as the number who attended the 2002 ISMRM annual meeting in Honolulu.

Cancellations were most prominent among Asian delegates, who are geographically linked to the focal point of the epidemic, according to Roberta A. Kravitz, ISMRM director of meetings. Toshiba America Medical Systems, whose parent is based in Japan, was among six vendors that canceled.

Presenters were also affected, as only about 85% of the 900 presenters initially scheduled were able to accommodate the new dates. All the plenary speakers, however, were available for the meeting, which ran from July 10 to 16. The program remained robust and varied, drawing a steady flow to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, with traffic at vendor booths surging between sessions, as at past meetings.

ISMRM made the decision to postpone on April 29, less than two weeks before the original meeting was scheduled to begin. The announcement was made after the World Health Organization urged travelers to avoid nonessential visits to Toronto. The WHO advisory was issued following Toronto deaths attributed to the flulike SARS virus. At the time, more than 200 people in the city had contracted the potentially fatal disease.

The society stuck with Toronto because of the logistical problems involved in moving the meeting elsewhere within the three-month window available, according to Kravitz. The ISMRM planning group considered the possibility that the SARS outbreak might not be contained by midsummer, but in the end, members were confident in the measures that Ontario provincial health officials had put in place to control the disease. Unlike China, where more than 2000 cases were reported, most cases in Canada were confined to medical centers where initial victims were being treated.

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