Year after year, myriad annual conferences are organized by scientific organizations across major cities all over the globe. Esteemed Physicians travel across the world to get insights into the most cutting-edge developments in diagnostic methods or get an update on a state-of-the-art treatment guideline in their field of expertise. Such conferences bring like-minded people under the same umbrella, providing them ample opportunity to share their knowledge with each other, and amp up their quality of health care and clinical practice. While residents do take it upon themselves to attend a conference or two from time to time, where do the current medical students of the best Caribbean medical school fit in?
Since attending conferences isn’t really a constraint for graduation, I skimped on myriad opportunities myself, until I was lucky enough to attend the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) Centennial Conference in Chicago, IL, which quickly turned the tables on my perspective. The sheer volume of workshops and events to attend and speakers to heed was phenomenal, not to mention the opportunity to share my ideas with researchers from around the globe, despite travelling alone.
While your success as a physician isn’t limited by the number of conferences that you have attended, every time I reminisce all the tantalizing benefits that students can reap from these medical get-togethers, I can’t help but tssk and shake my head, and sigh at what those who have never attended a medical conference in their lives, have missed out on. Here are a few perks of attending medical conferences, from a personal experience, which medical students won’t be able to overlook anymore.
Bask in the Limelight While You give presentations
Most conferences will offer you a chance to give an oral presentation or present a poster. Some conferences are even accompanied by abstract competitions to inspire creativity and help bring out the students’ best efforts by challenging them to hone in on their skillset. In fact, an invitation to present your research via a podium presentation, an abstract, or as a poster is akin to your invite to a party. It speaks volumes about how you are not crashing the birthday party of your friend’s friend, but have actually earned a place there.
When you stumble across that influential individual that you have always dreamt of crossing paths with, and tell them you are presenting your research to them, it makes you appear as an expert, with an uncanny ability to develop a project and publish its findings on your own. When you are not just a participant, but an actual presenter, it sends across the message that they are dealing with someone who can yield results and is a worthy contender. Remember that be it your future boss, potential business partners, or the program directors, everybody wants results and are looking for someone who can bring them to the table.
Get honest feedback on your Research
While many students, even those coming from the best Caribbean medical schools, shudder at the prospect of presenting their findings and research works in front of some of the biggest names in the industry, most fail to see the benefit of the feedback they will be bombarded with. Especially, when you are in the throes of working on a proposed research project, such pointers can help you refine your work to cater to people’s expectations. Even though you might receive constructive criticism along the way, sometimes a bit more blunt, take it as an opportunity to learn and improve. In addition, Attending poster sessions and oral presentations by others gives you an opportunity to dig deeper and analyze the notions of others to tap into your true potential.
Cultivate your Professional network
One of the biggest reasons why I fell head over heels with medical conferences is that they provide you with ample opportunity to strengthen your existing contacts or meet new people through informal and formal interactions. You can leverage such seminars to network with residents, other students, and specially attendings who will be in charge of recruiting you when you will be clamoring to ace a residency placement. Delivering a podium presentation or presenting a poster pertaining to your works can augment the charms of your residency application and curriculum vitae. However, I still say that if you are solely attending meetings with no other motive but to have something to add to your CV, you will fail to capitalize on the wonderful networking opportunities that such conferences can grant you. How can you not jump on a chance to network with medical colleagues who may be the ones offering you a job ten years down the lane?
More Facetime with Faculty
While most conferences are pretty hectic and take up most of your days, they present myriad opportunities for networking with pioneers, leaders, researchers, and faculty. Especially when most conferences provide hubs for students to partake in meet-and-greet sessions with leaders, attend mentorship sessions, attend educational seminars, present research posters, compete in competitions, and give talks, there is no better avenue for aspiring medical physicians to be heard and seen as a name to contend with. Despite housing hordes of professionals, academic medicine is a rather small and tight knit community and it is vital for your career advancement that you befriend all the right people. As luck has it, faculty members love nothing better than a chance to disseminate their knowledge, and you can take their two cents on various fields of medicine outside the seminar hall, such as at a nice dinner or the hotel’s tennis court.
Low registration fees and Funding Options
Enthusiastic they may be, young medical students are riddled by financial constraints all the time, especially those on loans. In order to encourage such students to attend, most conferences keep their registration rates low, sometimes even free of cost, to facilitate financially-weak students. We all know what a hefty expense it could be to get to a conference, especially one held in a far off geographical zone. When you factor in miscellaneous expenses, the airfare, food, hotel expenses, and the registration fee, no matter how insignificant it may be, costs can soar high fast, making participants break out in a sweat. To alleviate such constraints, there are usually several avenues for funding, like research scholarships, institution funding, grants, and state funding to help all students avail equal opportunities.