Article Date: 3/1/2006

If I Had To Do It Over
Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Don't be a homebody. Broaden your professional knowledge at national conferences.

By Rhonda Robinson, O.D.

DO YOU TEND TO STICK close to home? I certainly did. I grew up in Indianapolis. I went to school in Indiana. And I practice optometry in Indianapolis. For years, I even got all of my continuing education credits in Indianapolis, usually at our state conference. Then I started working as an educational consultant for a contact lens manufacturer and began traveling to optometry schools all over the United States and Canada. One year into that eye-opening experience, I had another one: I attended my first national conference.

At the 1999 meeting of the American Academy of Optometry in Seattle, I discovered a world I never knew — so much excitement, so much to learn and so many colleagues to meet. This meeting was a pivotal event for me.
Today, I attend and often speak at almost every regional and national optometry meeting. The experience is still fun and stimulating. That's why I urge all O.D.s, as well as optometry students, to attend these meetings whenever possible. Here's just a sampling of what you'll find.

So Much to Learn

In Seattle, I knew immediately there was more to attending a national meeting than I'd ever imagined, including:

Education. The quantity and variety of educational opportunities are unmatched. You'll hear talks by nationally and internationally known speakers who may not make it to your local area. You'll also find classes to match your interest.

Exhibits. You'll see all the latest technologies and learn how to use them during hands-on sessions at each manufacturer's booth. Optometry schools and a wide spectrum of employers also have recruitment booths.

People. You'll meet colleagues from all over the country and find out how they practice. The atmosphere is congenial, and attendees all wear name tags that include their city and state to get the conversation moving. It's a great opportunity for everyone to network and widen our professional circles.

Attending professional meetings will get you outside the box, both physically and mentally.

Meet the Community

When you spend all day in your office, you tend to think your problems are yours alone. When you get out there and talk to your peers, you'll find out they're struggling with the same issues — managed care, staffing, scheduling and paying the bills. You'll feel better knowing you're approaching certain problems the right way, and you'll get ideas for improvement.

Any opportunity you have to interact with successful colleagues is a gift. Find people you've heard of, and ask for 20 minutes to chat. They'll be flattered, and you'll get expert information or advice, and possibly open the door to a mentoring relationship that will last a lifetime

Think Global, Stay Local

If you're concerned about the cost of attending a national conference, consider regional meetings near your practice. And remember you can write off expenses associated with these meetings. As a student, you can get a special rate, and may qualify for an industry grant.

My world expanded when I left my safe zone of Indianapolis and yours will too when you travel. I'll see you at the next meeting.

Dr. Robinson practices at Ossip-Robinson Optometry. A 1982 graduate of Indiana University School of Optometry, she is a founder and the president of Women of Vision, a professional organization for women in optometry (

Optometric Management, Issue: March 2006