Darn, that was probably important

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 58 , No. 2 , March 2016 , Pages 60 Editorials

While attending the St. Paul’s Hospital CME Conference for Primary Care Physicians in November 2015, I realized that it had been a long time since my last educational meeting—aside from our monthly Editorial Board sessions, which set the worldwide standard for intellectual brilliance. An unsubstantiated rumor (started by me) is that the World Health Organization is considering using us as a potential world-saving think tank. I wrote about medical conferences in an editorial some years back [BCMJ 2009;51:52] and want to now provide an update because I’ve noticed a few changes.

As I slide gracefully down the far side of the age demographic, I have observed that our younger physician group has got it all going on. Except for a few holdouts (you know who you are), gone are the days of pleated pants, pocket protectors, and Birkenstocks with socks. These up-and-comers dress well and seem to take pride in their appearance. They also exude an air of confidence and intelligence that is a little threatening to the dinosaurs among them.

Electronic devices have taken even the conference world by storm. Looking around I noticed a few syllabus binders perched in front of doctors who looked a lot like me. Everyone else had laptops and tablets, onto which they had downloaded the conference app, or were happily sending messages to other conference attendees through the provided messenger group. The conference even sent out regular schedule updates electronically to keep attendees informed at all times. You can now distract yourself with almost anything—texting, games, Internet searches, Facebook, Instagram, remotely accessed office work, and even the odd conference selfie. 

This brings me to the problem I have struggled with for years. Make no mistake: I am at the conference to learn and I want to learn. I strive to pay attention and I look forward to every clinical pearl that might come my way. Eyes facing forward, sitting at attention, I hang on the speaker’s every word, yearning for increased knowledge. That is, until my mind wanders–that speaker is really small up there; I bet I can pretend to crush him between my fingers; if I hold up my hand he looks like he’s in jail or in a bird cage; speaking of birds, why can’t chickens fly even though they have wings? And then it happens. I catch the tail end of what I am sure is a pearl that will change my practice for the better and save a substantial number of lives in the process. I want to leap onto the stage and demand that the speaker repeat himself but, since I am about 400 feet away, I would land on the table in front of me instead and disturb the guy who is sitting there. Speaking of which, he looks a little like Clark Kent; why couldn’t they come up with a better disguise for him? If I wore glasses and ran a little gel through my hair people would still recognize me; how does Superman handle his onesie if he has to use the bathroom? There I go again.

Despite my shortcomings I enjoyed the conference and picked up some clinical pearls (probably about 10% of what those young doctors gleaned, but they likely already knew them anyway). 

Conferences are also a good opportunity to catch up with your colleagues, some of whom you may not have seen in years. Probably the most valuable pearl I can share is that if you offer to pay for postconference drinks at a fancy downtown hotel, make sure you’re not at a single malt scotch tasting where you each try six of them.
—DRR

David R. Richardson, MD. Darn, that was probably important. BCMJ, Vol. 58, No. 2, March, 2016, Page(s) 60 - Editorials.



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