Friday, May 4, 2012

Attending Medical Conferences or Seminars, Is it Worth it?

Last week, I attended the mid-year convention of the Philippine Orthopedic Association.  For those who do not know, orthopedic surgeons in the country have two main conventions every year. The annual convention done in Manila and the midyear convention, held out-of-town. For this year, the mid-year convention was held in the beautiful island of Cebu.
Mactan Island, Cebu

 This has been my first mid-year convention in years.  I usually attend only the annual event and my own subspecialty society’s convention (The Philippine Hip and Knee Society) in Manila.

So, what are the advantages of attending conferences?

1.       This convention was a gathering of the best and brightest orthopedic surgeons in the country. So obviously, a wealth of orthopedic knowledge was presented. A lot of "learning" at one clip, with most material compressed into two days’ worth of time.  This is part of our continuing medical education.

Radisson Blu Hotel, site of orthopedic convention

          The only thing I felt needed some improvement was that the speakers often spoke over the time limit and the Q and A was cut short because of this.  I would have wanted to ask a few questions but never got the chance. When I was a speaker at last year’s Hip and Knee convention, I practiced several times to adhere to the time limit.

2.       Attending conferences can build your network and see what colleagues are up to

One of the benefits of attending conferences is networking value. Where else can you find so many orthopedic contacts facing the same issues as yours? It also fosters a sense of camaraderie, reconnecting with old friends we see only in Facebook now.  (In fact, when I saw an old friend there, I had to check Facebook in my mobile first to confirm his name. hehe).

3.       Since it was held out of town, it is also a great opportunity to bring along your family for some R and R. 

 A nice vacation, a good hotel. Most of our conventions take place in quality hotels, as this is part of the incentive for attracting the Fellows.   Staying in hotel rooms has been a luxury for me. This was actually my main reason for attending this year’s out of town convention. Hehe. 

Besides, I haven’t been to Cebu in a long time.  I think it is good to get out and see the city, taste the food, (Cebu lechon, the best!), since I’d never know when I will be back here or if it will be devastated by a major typhoon, flood, earthquake, killer bees, or civil war.   
Lechon Cebu!

Also, I felt I needed some time with my wife alone  (We left our kids with their grandparents in Manila).  

Of course, we bought something nice for them as pasalubong: small guitars from one of the guitar-making factories in Cebu. 

4.       The freebies!

The orthopedic vendors who set up booth will often give out freebies.  Then, there were also prizes during the convention where Ipads, wines, even furniture items were raffled off.  This is aside from the fact that you get free meals by just listening to the talks.

What are the disadvantages of attending conventions or seminars?

1.       The cost- may be expensive

All attendees had to pay the registration and travel costs. Of course, some may have been sponsored, especially the speakers. In fact, if ones travel costs are sponsored, then he should attend! But for most, travel costs, food costs, hotel costs, and other miscellaneous costs are absorbed by the attendees.  This is probably the main reason why some members don’t attend.

2.       The chance that the speakers may be sharing incorrect knowledge, or not at all knowledgeable themselves. 

I believe that our speakers, both local and foreign, were well prepared in their lectures. However, it pays to make your own assessments of presented topics, not just blindly "follow the pack”. Tips, tricks, and strategies need to be weighed as to their "worth" and "accuracy" before using them. Listen and decide for yourself. 

      3. The time spent away from your actual practice or business.

          Time is always a concern when scheduling activities and some individuals simply can't spare the time away from their lives for activities such as this.  I know of a colleague who was not able to attend because he had a “toxic” patient to attend to.

       4. The chance that the topics may not actively help our practice or our concerns.

             If this is the case, then the seminar will be a waste of time, where nothing you learn is of any use to you.  This is one reason given by a fellow member who said he had no plans of attending.

Overall, seminars or conventions, if chosen carefully, can be a good experience as well as good investment.   And this holds true not only to medical conferences but to all other types of seminars, whether business seminars, financial seminars, etc.  They are not miracle cures to our problems or other problems, however, and this must be kept in mind when deciding to attend a seminar or convention. Many benefits from conference attendance are hard to quantify. But these are, after all, optional events, and success or failure in our practice, business or life will probably not hinge on attendance on these events.

       After all, education exists in many forms, not just at conventions or seminars!

      How about you?  Do you like going to conferences or seminars?

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