Conferences provide time for learning, connecting, recharging
Take advantage of these educational opportunities and time away from the office to explore foreign places and meet new people
It’s medical conference season. I find myself travelling away from home more in the fall to attend conferences. Yet another flight; yet another hotel. It’s a good thing I really love going to conferences. I love learning new things, meeting new people, seeing new places. As I reflect more on this, I realize there are four main reasons why we doctors attend medical conferences—to learn, network, travel and relax—and while there needs to be one of these reasons present, any combination of the four is possible.
Meeting peers at conferences, however, can sometimes be an emotionally difficult experience, bringing out feelings of competition or insecurity. When we listen to what others are doing, our own achievements may pale in comparison: “He was a classmate of mine, and while I just see patients in the office, he has gone on to develop an international reputation and be the world expert in this field.” We can feel intimidated, feel too shy to speak up, say hello or ask questions. It helps to remember that we have all achieved a great deal, just by getting into and completing medical school. We all make choices; we have made ours to practise medicine the way we do, and our colleagues have made theirs. There is no right choice; they are different and complementary, and there is a role and need for us all. A good goal when we go to a conference is to meet two new people, to consciously push past our personal insecurities and reach out and talk to people we do not know. While hard to start, it yields amazing results.
A reminder is in order: While we are making new acquaintances, remember that this is still a professional endeavour, and our behaviour needs to be in keeping with this. So, while it is great to socialize, go out for a drink and even sing karaoke in Scottish pubs, we need to remain in control so we can best enjoy ourselves, our colleagues and the situation.
Finally, as conferences are positive for us in so many ways, use the “Tarzan Rule” to keep them happening. While swinging through the jungle, Tarzan does not let go of one vine without having the next one in hand. So, do not leave a conference without having planned your next one.
Mamta Gautam is an Ottawa psychiatrist who specializes in treating physician patients. If you have a question you would like addressed in this column, please contact Dr. Gautam at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “Helping Hand” in the subject line. All inquiries will be confidential. Your questions will not be replied to, but may be selected to be answered in this column, which is intended to be educational, not therapeutic.