The ripple effect of medical outreach

Your author exhibiting at 2014 ACOG Region V & VII conference

Your author exhibiting at 2014 ACOG Region V & VII conference

As part of my work with the National Center, we exhibit at medical professional conferences. I look forward to hearing how our efforts effected positive change in serving patients.

In 2014, Regions V and VII for the American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) met for their annual conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Often, these ACOG regions meet individually; a joint conference offered the opportunity to get to meet OBs from twice as many states.

That same weekend, another group of local advocates exhibited at the joint meeting in Baltimore. The National Center for Prenatal & Postnatal Down Syndrome Resources orchestrated outreach at these joint regional meetings. Between our efforts in Indy, and their efforts in Baltimore, we reached out to almost half of the United States.

These exhibit booths are paid for through the generosity of local groups from the states represented by the ACOG regions. The cost of the Indy booth was covered through the Down syndrome groups in Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky; Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Indianapolis, Indiana.

Kim Baich, DSACO, & Stephanie Thompson, NDSAN

Kim Baich, DSACO, & Stephanie Thompson, NDSAN

Staffing the booth were Diana Merzweiler, Executive Director for Down Syndrome of Louisville, Kim Baich, Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio, and Stephanie Thompson, National Down Syndrome Adoption Network, along with myself. We made for a great team.

These regional conferences attract a bit of a different audience than the national conferences. A greater percentage are active OBs who choose to attend these more affordable, and shorter conferences, along with medical residents and students interested in obstetrics and gynecology.

As a general rule, conference attendees typically are not eager to spend time with exhibitors and receive sales pitches. However, we’re the rare booth that is providing them information for them to then give to their patients.

You quickly pick up on what each colored-ribbon means on a name tag, denoting those who are medical students, or on the committee that planned the conference. You find out if the attendee is actively delivering babies, or if not, if they are in a practice that provides prenatal care. And, then you give them information that is recommended by professional guidelines for patients to receive.

Diana Merzweiler, DSL

Diana Merzweiler, DSL

Then, if the attendee is still engaged and not looking to move on to the next booth, you try to get to know them.

How are they using NIPS? Have they delivered a baby with Down syndrome? Do they know their local organization? What questions do their patients have about Down syndrome?

And, by doing so, you gain insights into the fact that these are the professionals in the room with the patients, counseling them about testing and delivering test results. They’re the ones that will be giving the patient the information about Down syndrome with a prenatal test result. And, if they don’t have confidence in the quality and accuracy and comprehensiveness of your materials, then they’re not going to hand it out.

It was validating to hear so often how the physicians were glad to receive our information, to know that it was there for their patients, and that they’re glad to have it to give to their patients. And, more than ever, the attendees talked of how needed having a Spanish translation to provide their patients was important.

Now, we were just there for two days. We talked to the lion’s share of attendees, but at most for no more than 10 minutes. So, it can make us wonder whether we made a difference.

But then, sometimes you find out that you did.

This was my third regional conference to exhibit at, having done so in 2009 and 2011, previously. In 2011, three other regions also had an exhibit booth from local Down syndrome organizations. At the one held in Orlando, an OB said to the local organization’s executive director:

You know, I heard a father, who was also a lawyer, talk at a previous conference about Down syndrome and it changed how I counsel my patients.

That executive director messaged me almost immediately, and that same OB would later invite me to present at a conference the next year.

At this year’s conference, I made similar connections that hopefully will pay off future dividends.

But, regardless, there were about 20 exhibitors at the conference. Five of them, or around 25%, were offering non-invasive prenatal screening tests. And there was only one booth there providing the rest of the information to go along with prenatal testing for Down syndrome.


Ariosa displaying National Center materials

Ariosa displaying National Center materials


  1. Great work Mark!


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