Article Date: 9/1/2006

Street Smarts
Don't Succumb to Conference Fatigue

Avoid falling into a rut by adjusting your attitude and being on the lookout for knowledge.


RECENTLY, I ATTENDED A continuing education conference, but not for optometrists. This one was for pharmacists. Why? I wanted a first-hand look at how other healthcare professionals put together their conferences. Of course, it didn't hurt that this particular conference just happened to be taking place at the Dolphin Hotel in Disney World. And, with my sons being 8 years old and 5 years old ... well, you get the picture.

So, did I learn anything? Actually, what I took away from this conference — in addition to some great pharma information — was a clearer understanding of the value we can derive from our own optometry meetings.

Wired and Eager to Learn

From the time I arrived at the hotel, it was clear the pharmacy profession is much better "wired" than optometry. From check-in to the daily schedule, everything was automated. They even had a place to load the conference schedule into a PDA.

When I inquired about a form I needed to get CE credits, the man at the kiosk just looked at me for a second and said, "You do know you can do that online, don't you?" 

While attending several courses, I also noticed other differences. As I glanced around the room at my first course (which started at 5:45 a.m.!), I was amazed at what I saw. Every attendee in the room was paying attention to the speaker. Even toward the end of the 2-hour presentation, the speaker still had nearly all eyes on her.

When the course ended, instead of making a beeline for the door, many people stayed to ask questions or listen in as the speaker expanded on key points. Even in the exhibit hall, the pharmacists were drilling company reps with questions and visiting nearly every booth, not just those with free stuff.

Attitude Adjustment

Contrary to what some of you may be thinking, I'm not trying to denigrate optometry conferences. Most offer diverse, relevant courses with wellrespected speakers. What bothers me is the attitude many O.D.s take to these CE meetings. I have a hard time understanding why anyone would pay for a course, only to attend it without trying to learn something.

Most new grads and younger optometrists are very enthusiastic about CE conferences, and I applaud that. My point is as your experience in the field grows, be careful not to lose that enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge. By definition, to practice a profession is to continually keep learning and upgrading your skills and expertise.

The next time you're sitting at a CE meeting, remember what Carlos Santana once said, "If you gotta sweep the floor, sweep the damn floor and don't be jiving!" Wise words.

A 1993 graduate of PCO, Dr. Beck is always looking for new avenues of learning.

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2006