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Scientific Conferences

Not Just Golfing in the Sun

When someone says they are going on a business trip, most of us would think that they are going to some wonderful place for round or two of golf and beer. While I don’t contest that this is a part of many meetings, there is much more that goes on behind the scenes. Recently I had the opportunity to attend the American Heart Association’s Resuscitation Science Symposium. This two-day conference was geared specifically towards advancing resuscitation and included everything from working on cells to full blown clinical trials. And let me tell you…it wasn’t just golfing in the sun. So I thought I would share what else goes on at these conferences.

The Networking…

Conferences are a great place to network. Not only are people for the most part friendly, everyone shares a common interest. And it is through networking and collaboration that research advances. It is great if someone has a new analytical approach, but it does nothing for patients (and the research process for that matter) if there is nobody around to implement it. Networking is also a great opportunity to bounce ideas off others. Each person brings a unique perspective to a problem…and a unique solution. Based on their experiences, training and expertise, two people will have totally different approaches to the same problem. Also, as someone just starting out in the field, I found it super helpful to build connections with other research groups whom I might consider working with in the future. And, I have the most to gain from veteran researchers. So far I have had very few opportunities like this, so I would recommend making the most of them.

The Science…

This may seem redundant, as they are scientific conferences, but the meeting is really about the science. Everyone has his or her own area of interest and expertise that they dedicate their time towards. However, ones area is just a sliver in the grand scheme of things. Just to show you, there were over 250 abstracts presented, each unique in its own way. There were abstracts on everything on the resuscitation spectrum. From incidence of cardiac arrests and trauma to bystander CPR to outcomes, from small animal model studies to randomized control trials involving thousands of patients. There was presentations on which drugs or devices are better, or how to best measure performance. And you can’t forget all the product marketing trying you to use their defibrillator or their antirhythmic either. All of which goes to show that there is fascinating work being conducted around the world, which given time will change practice and improve outcomes.

And Then Everything Else…

I would be foolish if I didn’t mention the other part of conferences. While the networking and the science are great…there are other parts that are equally important. Events like these are a great opportunity foster relationships with coworkers, whether strengthen existing ones or build new ones all together. While there is little free time in the schedule, you can always make something work. Either sneak away for an hour or two of bargain shopping or out for a night on the town. Or maybe even a round of golf and beers if the weather is right. Regardless there is always time to take in what the host city has to offer.

Overall scientific conferences can be a great mix between work and play. But it is all up to you what you want to get out of them. If you want to go shop, socialize and golf during the whole conferences that great. But if you want to spend the whole time at the convention center that is fine too. You get out of it what you put in. Personally, I found that mixing the science with a small vacation worked best. I make valuable connections with international researchers and listened to some fascinating presentations…but I also got a little me time and did some of the fun stuff as well. So if you ever get the opportunity to take part in a conference / business meeting etc…go for it!

Jason Buick is a researcher at Rescu, the resuscitation science program at St. Michael’s Hospital and is completing his Masters degree in Health Research at the University of Toronto.  His research interests focus around prehospital care, specifically bystander CPR and out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.

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