Trade Show Talk With National Medical Association Director of Conventions & Events Derrick Johnson

May 27, 2024

Tasked with a lofty vision to create equitable healthcare for all, National Medical Association Director of Conventions & Events Derrick Johnson is doing everything in his power to help the organization change the world through connection, ensuring that physicians and partners share and learn in creative and meaningful ways.

At Connect Spring Marketplace 2024 in Las Vegas, Johnson joined us in our podcast booth on the show floor at the Venetian Convention & Expo Center to share his experience and passion for adult learning and connecting people.

The 122nd Annual Convention and Scientific Assembly of the National Medical Association will be held Aug. 3–7 at the New York Hilton Midtown and Sheraton New York Times Square in New York City. Each year, African American physicians and other health professionals from across the U.S. convene to exchange medical advances, discuss health policy priorities and share experiences through networking opportunities. With NMA’s 26 scientific specialty sections, the convention attracts a broad spectrum of African American physicians, academicians and scientists in the country.

Over the years, the convention has attracted guests like Dr. Anthony Fauci, former director of National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. David S. Satcher, former U.S. Surgeon General; and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders — to name a few.

Read excerpts from our conversation or listen to our full interview here.

At the 2023 NMA Convention, Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III was the keynote speaker for the opening ceremony and awards.

1.    Flagship event: We have about 75,000 square feet of exhibit space at our trade show. There are a lot of pharmaceuticals doing demonstrations. We also have an educational component within the trade show called Presentation Theaters, where we create meeting rooms and allow partners to do presentations. 

2.    Why it matters: Our mission is to eliminate the health disparities between the underserved and everyone else. Our members are healthcare professionals who want to be a part of that overall vision to have equity across all channels. The majority of our members are African American physicians. 

3.    Attendance trending up: Over the past few years, we’ve seen a growth in attendance at the convention. Ever since the dreaded 2020, we've seen that our members and partners want to get back out in the physical space. People crave the interaction and the ability to be together. 

4.    The Big Apple in 2024: This year’s event will be held at both the New York Hilton Midtown and the Sheraton Times Square. The exhibit hall will be in the Hilton on multiple floors, but we do have other activations over at the Sheraton.

5.    Attracting doctors to the show floor: We normally host a breakfast or lunch or have snacks to entice the attendees to come in a little more frequently because we have so much content out there in our 26 different medical sections that exist.

6.    Show within a show: In addition to the NMA medical exhibits, we have an auxiliary space for the spouses of our physicians. They create their own trade show area, so they're selling merchandise, like paintings, clothing and jewelry. 

NMA Announced a Three-Year Partnership Supporting Sickle Cell Endeavors by St. Jude Research.

7.    Trade show evolution: We are looking to evolve the trade show into more activation-based experiences that are more hands-on interactive elements within the trade show.

8.    Backstory: I've been at the association now for almost a year. However, I interned with the organization throughout middle school, high school and college, and now I have my old predecessor’s role. I came out of college and started working with the National Association for Gifted Children, as their director of meetings and professional development.

9.    Giving back: On the Saturday of our program, we do an event called “Walk a Mile with a Child.” The event came to fruition because one of our physicians wanted to communicate the importance of being active and what that does to the mind, body and spirit. We open it up to the entire community, and we market it to schools, charities and churches. We pick a route and are normally led by a band. We were in New Orleans last year, so we had a second line band lead the walk.

10. What’s next: We are heading to Chicago in 2025 at the Hilton, which is under one roof so that'll be exciting. I’m currently solidifying our final contracts for 2026 and 2027. We have two destinations that I think are going to be able to create a whole different dynamic for our conventions.

At last year’s NMA Convention, children interacted with science, technology, engineering and math through a collaboration of @STEMNOLA and @NationalMedAssn, sponsored by @OchsnerHealth.


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