Meeting my future

As my classroom education winds down – I’m in the very last week of basic science classes now – I spent several days getting a glimpse of my future education. I headed to Seattle for the American Geriatrics Society’s annual meeting, where I had the chance to listen to several continuing-education presentations and help present a poster at a student-research session.

I like Seattle, and have friends and family there, so I was glad about the trip. But, frankly, I was not excited about the conference. I’ve been to plenty of professional development meetings in my previous work life, and found them to be mostly boring and repetitive.

I was pleasantly surprised. I listened to two main presentations, one about predicting how long older patients can expect to live, one about how to care for patients with multiple chronic illnesses.  The sessions were interesting and informative, even though some of the ideas I heard were repeats of information I’ve already learned. Maybe that’s because I’m still so new to medicine that I need many reminders to retain facts. Maybe it’s a sign that I’ve found the right area of interest for me. Whatever the reason, I don’t dread having to attend such meetings to get my continuing education credits as a doctor. In fact, I’m looking forward to learning more at future events.

Presenting the poster was also different than I expected. I spent two hours standing with dozens of other students and residents, each of us in front of a poster summarizing our project. In my case, it was a description of a wonderful elective class that several OHSU students and I took part in, which aims to familiarize medical students with healthy senior citizens living in the community. I expected to answer lots of casual questions about the project. Instead, only a handful of people stopped to talk, but they asked surprisingly deep and nuanced questions, and were generous with advice and suggestions.

Most of the other posters I saw were about scientific research, not educational pilots, and I was struck by the interesting and complex questions some of them tackled: Is it safe for older adults to get cochlear implants for hearing loss? How can you effectively recruit older African Americans into research trials? There were also a host of interesting case reports about uncommon diagnoses and drug side-effects. I was humbled and happy to see how much good research med students nationwide seem to be conducting. While I’m not sure if research will be a big part of my future life, I left feeling like I was in good company, both scientifically and professionally.