The Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons will be a little different next year in Philadelphia: Instead of a pile of paper materials and a 165-page program book waiting for them at the registration desk, attendees will be handed an iPod touch. The portable media player, personal digital assistant, and Wi-Fi mobile platform from Apple will be integrated with every aspect of the meeting, from scientific education to social events, plenary lectures, seminars, exhibitors, and maps to help the physician attendees navigate the conference. Attendees will even be able to communicate with each other using the device.

In addition to enabling the 7,000-attendee meeting to reduce its paper waste output, organizers expect to extend the reach of the meeting well beyond Philadelphia, with podcasts in the months leading up to the May 2010 meeting. In addition, many of the seminars, oral abstract presentations on neurosurgical research, and the keynote lecture by Newt Gingrich, will be available post-meeting for attendees to download. The first podcast, on sports-related head injuries by a team surgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers, went up on AANS’s Web site in late August, with more expected to follow. However, as communications director Betsy van Die points out, some sessions will remain exclusive to the meeting—“We’re not going to give it all away.” But there will be quite a few downloadable sessions; AANS plans to open an Apple iTunes store to disseminate the podcasts, and it will also to make them available at

The idea began with a suggestion from a member neurosurgeon who’d seen iPods used at another meeting. AANS agreed it was a good fit, but staff are still sorting out the costs involved. “It’s far more expensive” than offering the printed materials, says van Die. The plan is to have the cost of the iPods sponsored, something that seems likely as they’re getting “a lot of enthusiasm from potential sponsors,” says van Die.

For more information about this educational endeavor, go to the AANS Web site.

For more on mobile applications and meetings, check out this column: Mobile Tech Tools for Meetings and Trade Shows.