|Best in Show 2019: Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting|
|Oct. 17-20, 2018||Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta||5,316 attendees|
The Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Annual Meeting draws a large number of international undergraduate and graduate students. However, many struggle to afford the event registration fee and travel costs required to attend, said Debra Tucker, CMP, president of Debra Tucker Associates and BMES annual meeting director. Monetary awards are given for design submissions or research excellence, but they benefit just a handful of students.
Since the meeting is seen as such a plus for future biomedical engineers, BMES created a program a decade ago to enable more students to attend.
“We created an earned ‘scholarship’ program by using students as volunteers in roles that we would otherwise need to hire a temp for, such as room monitors, pre-registration assistance and other roles,” Tucker told Convene. “We ask their interest and assign them to sessions in their specific field.”
BMES even has a “social media correspondent” volunteer role, whose responsibilities include real-time updates on sessions on Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, Tucker said.
Student volunteers work four-hour shifts to ensure they are still able to attend additional sessions and otherwise engage at the meeting, Tucker said, and for each four-hour shift the student earns a $125 credit to be used toward registration fees. “They may work up to two shifts for a total of $250 earned credit,” she said, adding that if the students are BMES members and register in time for the early-bird discount, those volunteer shifts can earn them enough to cover registration costs.
Over the past 10 years, the number of volunteers has grown from about 100 (in 2009) to about 500 (in 2018), with coverage for more than 750 assignments, Tucker said. Many of those students would otherwise not be able to attend the meeting — which would be to the detriment of the field.
Biomedical engineers, Tucker said, bridge the medical and engineering disciplines, designing and building such innovative devices as artificial limbs and organs and improving processes in such areas as genomic testing.
“As a biomedical engineer,” Tucker said, “they are working on the ‘next big thing’ in medicine and health sciences and this volunteer program allows them to attend an internationally acclaimed meeting in their field and the opportunity to network and interact with others so they really can make a difference in the world.”
Cristi Kempf is Convene executive editor.