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From 1 to 4 October 2023, the annual congress of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) took place in sunny San Diego, California, USA. It was my second in-person visit to the North American “big sister” of our beloved ESTRO congress.

In 2015, I was an exchange PhD student in Saint Louis, Missouri, during the autumn. This gave me the perfect chance to attend ASTRO in San Antonio, Texas. I remember being impressed by the size of the congress centre and the freezing temperatures inside it despite the hot weather outside. But the scientific programme and the exhibition were equally impressive.

The situation was similar this year at the big convention centre by San Diego Bay. The packed programme covered all aspects of radiation oncology, from research to clinical practice, patient advocacy, and even policy.

Figure 1: The view of the San Diego Bay from the convention centre

A highlight for me was being able to join the editorial board meeting of the Red Journal on the first day at 7:30 am. Having joined the board during Covid, until then I had only been able to attend meetings online. It was the first time I got to meet other editors or the managing editors from Elsevier in person after exchanging countless emails.

Networking was a big highlight with the opportunity to see again some colleagues from the USA and Australia whom I had not seen for a long time. I also (finally) met colleagues from the USA in person. Having been in the field for some years, I was able to put faces to many familiar names. What is more, some of these brilliant people even knew who I was!

The mini-oral format was quite entertaining; all presentations were given one after the other without interruption, and afterwards, there was a panel discussion with questions to all authors at the end. The downside of this format is that it is difficult to mix and match sessions held at the same time. The upside is that discussions can go more in-depth between experts on one topic.

One highlight session for me was “Evolving Roles of Medical Physicists in Clinical Trials”, which covered the more traditional roles of physicists in quality assurance but also explored more unconventional roles that physicists can take in this context. For example, Lei Ren from the University of Maryland presented the many opportunities of virtual clinical trials.