More than 400 sessions, 800 speakers, and 5,300 original research abstracts lay the foundation for the American Thoracic Society (ATS) 105th International Conference taking place in May in San Diego. In the beginning, this conference included just 34 charter members and has continued to grow over the years, today drawing more than 15,000 attendees. The conference received its “international” designation in 1990—and now almost half of attendees come from outside the United States.

Planning the conference each year relies heavily on input from ATS members and industry professionals.

“The programs for the major symposia, workshops, courses, and seminars come from ATS members and other interested pulmonologists via a ‘Call for Input’ from April through June,” says Francine Comi, senior director of ATS scientific meetings and conferences. “Similarly, abstracts of research in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine are submitted in a ‘Call for Abstracts’ that takes place August through October.”

Like the field of respiratory medicine, attendance at the conference is an interdisciplinary mix. Professionals from a wide range of disciplines can be found at the ATS International Conference—with the largest group coming from adult and pediatric pulmonology, critical care, and sleep medicine.

“There is also a significant percentage of PhD researchers, public health professionals, environmental health experts, and behavior scientists,” says Brian Kell, senior director of ATS communications and marketing. “The conference also attracts thoracic surgeons, allergists and immunologists, and neonatologists.”

In addition to the exhibit hall and scientific symposia, highlights of the 2009 conference include a 5k Lung Run & Walk on the morning of Sunday, May 17. The entry fee is $30, and the course winds along the beautiful San Diego Bay. Additionally, the inaugural ATS Research Program Dinner will be held on the evening of May 16 (seating is limited). This dinner will celebrate a new generation of scientists and clinicians and honor the recipient of the Breathing for Life Award.

For those with an interest in sleep medicine, two postgraduate courses focused on sleep will be held before the official start of the conference. The first course will be a full day on sleep disorders in adults and children that focuses exclusively on nonpulmonary topics in the field. Topics will include the neurobiology of sleep, insomnia, narcolepsy, and circadian rhythm disorders. The second postgraduate course will focus on sleep-disordered breathing.

The ATS invites attendees to bring their families along for the trip and explore all of the attractions San Diego has to offer. A complimentary welcome reception will be held on May 16 for all attendees in the Gaslamp Quarter to set the scene for enjoying the city along the district’s wide brick sidewalks and historic architecture. Preregistration is required and can be completed on the conference registration form.

Registration is now open, and an advance program is available.

Katie Griffith is associate editor of RT. For further information, contact [email protected].