Breaking Out Of Our ‘Echo Chamber’ At Conferences
- David G. Armstrong DPM MD PhD
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As a new year begins, so does a new slate of podiatric scientific conferences. Podiatric physicians have no shortage of educational experiences from which to choose.
I regularly attend the annual American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) conference, the Diabetic Limb Salvage (DLS) meeting, the Diabetic Foot Global Conference (DFCon), the Symposium on Advanced Wound Care Spring/Wound Healing Society (SAWC Spring/WHS) meeting and the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) meeting. I regularly attend other meetings outside North America that have other foci in plastic surgery, infectious diseases, diabetes, rural health, vascular surgery and others.
I prefer meetings that are, in the truest sense of the word, interdisciplinary. We have a tendency in life in general, and in medicine specifically, to enjoy hearing what we want to hear and what is familiar. In other words, it’s often easier to be reassured with a soothing message from an “echo chamber” than it is to be challenged. I think putting some effort into leaving that echo chamber is ultimately worth it. It expands your “silo.” It’s frankly exhilarating. It makes me want to bound back into clinic and the wards on Monday and apply what I’ve learned.
The most important factors in putting on an educationally valuable conference are speakers, content and moderation.
The speakers should be superb. When that happens, one knows they are going to do their best to bring their "A" game because their colleagues are doing so. A good speaker takes an odd lecture request as a challenge to expand his or her horizons and the audience of colleagues is also the beneficiary.
The emphasis on content speaks for itself. However, the content should be controlled toward a theme. Just as Apple arguably does a good job in controlling its “ecosystem” on the iPhone and iPad, so too should the organizers control the topics and “soul” of a meeting.
Moderation is where most meetings could do better. Most believe moderating is keeping time and introducing people from a list. It is so much more than that. The mindful moderator must know the content and be an enthusiast. He or she must also challenge the speaker — pleasantly — with the goal of getting to those key kernels of truth that we love to mine at a meeting.
Dr. Armstrong is the Conference Co-Chairman of the Diabetic Foot Global Conference (DFCon). For more information, visit www.toeandflow.com.