What do you call a gathering of 15,000 Rheumatologists and Rheumatology health professionals? There’s got to be a good punch line to that opening question. Having recently spent 5 days in Atlanta in the company of this
nerd fest geekdom medical brilliance, for me it was a walk down memory lane. Imagine a giant convention center, people streaming from building to building, Starbucks lines snaking down the hall, massive ballrooms with projection screens displaying video of the scientific talks like a rock concert. With thousands of doctors, nurses, research scientists, industry and press milling about, would I see anyone I know?
Strolling through the maze of poster presentations, I turned around and ran smack into my mentor from medical school and residency, or THE REASON I became a Rheumatologist. Memories of events, people and places long since forgotten instantly flooded my mind. Saying goodbye to him with a promise to email more often, I grabbed a coffee and almost dumped it on the person behind me – a mentor from fellowship. Over the next few hours on convention day one, I saw another attending from residency, a former co-resident, a current Rheum fellow who had been one of my residents here in MA and another few attendings from fellowship. Each was greeted with a hug and a smile and a “Remember when . . . ?” Later that day during a quick snack and rest break, I overheard some valuable advice during a mentor/mentee discussion. As we go through our careers, there is a constant interplay between being the one giving and the one getting the advice, and maybe both at the same time.
As important as these conferences are for our CME and learning the most up to date practice and research information, the opportunity to form and renew relationships is equally important. I’m sure my colleagues across all specialties will agree. What this really illustrates is the often repeated phrase, “Medicine is an art and a science.” While the art lies in the nuances of treatment and the doctor/patient relationship, it also lies in the interpersonal mentorship we cultivate all the way back from those early pre-med days to the present. Remember picking the brain of any doctor you met? “Should I go to medical school?” During school, “What type of doctor should I be?” And as careers progress there is, “What should I look for in a job?”
As a group, I’ve noticed doctors are less apt to network than, say, business types. Friends and family members in other fields are constantly going to networking events, coffees and the like to meet and greet. Events like this conference remind me how valuable it can be to get out there. Say hello. Give advice. Get advice. Mentor a student. Thank your mentors. And since we can’t all traipse around the globe attending conferences and meetings each month, get connected through social media. Both in person and online, the relationships help make it all worthwhile.