Sunday, November 4, 2012

APTA National Student Conclave, Or: I Got More Swag Than P Diddy

Does P Diddy still have swag (is he even still relevant)? Did he ever? Am I completely out of touch with what "swag" means outside of the expo context? 

Whatever. Get off my lawn. 

National Student Conclave. I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly what to expect when I showed up at the Hyatt Regency on Friday morning. No, that’s not true. I was expecting, at the very least, to come home with a bunch of brochures and pens from the expo. In that respect, NSC more than delivered:

23 pens, 6 goniometers, 7 measuring tapes, 9 reusable tote bags, a laptop bag, 2 t shirts, and a magic 8 ball (among other things) later, I’d say the expo part of NSC more than lived up to what I was hoping for.

The vendors at the expo were impressive. I learned a lot about residency programs (before this I hadn’t even considered residency as an option, but now it’s definitely on my radar…just need to figure out what I want to be when I grow up and I’ll find a grown up to get me there). I learned a lot about options for clinical rotations, including a few that would REALLY help with flexible location options if hubs ends up across the country come August. I learned that not all companies are created equally, and that the personalities they send to conferences really do impact how the brand itself is perceived. (One girl texting and not making eye contact, sitting next to a pile of brochures and pens? Can’t imagine why that booth wasn't more popular… ) Some came off as genuinely passionate about their brand and what it’s doing to move PT forward – others came off as sales pitches so heavy-handed that I felt like I should have walked away with the keys to a used car in my purse.

For the most part, it was the former: representatives who humbly but passionately believe that their company is the best one to work for. They were inspiring and motivating, and made me antsy to get into the real world of patient care.

The APTA special interest group booths were interesting, but I felt like I didn't have any intelligent questions to ask. I was interested to hear that many groups provide journals for their members – that made me want to join a few of them, just to keep up on current research. The Sports Ortho group actually gave out current issues, which was really cool. They even gave digital copies on a 1 GB flash drive. Loved that.


Outside of the expo, there were lectures throughout both days that ranged from current specialty topics (peds, neuro, onco, etc) to post-graduation and political topics. I sat in on the neuro (Non-invasive Brain Stimulation to Guide and Enhance Poststroke Rehabilitation), oncology (Current Trends in HIV: What Every PT Student Needs to Know Today), and geriatrics (From Frailty and Fall Risk to Function and Fun: Improving Strength, Endurance, and the Quality of Life for Older Adults) sessions.

I have to admit, I didn’t get a lot out of the neuro session – it was full of charts and graphs that didn't make a lot of sense due to my currently limited exposure to all things neuro.

The oncology talk wasn't as PT-centered as I had hoped it’d be. There were a lot of interesting statistics (for example, 20% of people who are HIV+ don’t know it – terrifying), but I had hoped the speaker would focus more on how an HIV+ diagnosis would impact a patient’s PT care. There was one case study that briefly mentioned some neuropathies that patients may experience, but it was at the end of the session and we had run out of time so he really just glossed over it. I’m going to have to see if I can find the neuropathy he was talking about. Especially for PTs working in underserved areas, this seems like a pretty relevant topic.

Geriatrics is my current favorite area of PT (I’m torn between that and VA work – not that they’re mutually exclusive), so the geriatrics session was my favorite for obvious reasons. There wasn’t a whole lot of new information (mostly touched on balance issues, complications of dealing with patients who have dementia and Alzheimer’s, and general psych/soc issues of working with older adults), but a few points did hit home with me. One of the cases Lucy presented was about a brother and sister (Ed and Pat I think) duo dealing with the Pat’s Alzheimer’s. She often didn’t recognize her brother, but knew he loved her, so wouldn’t let him go. He stayed by her side until she died. The interesting part of the story, though, was the patient goals for the situation. Ed wanted to attend his granddaughter’s wedding, but wouldn’t leave Pat alone for that long. To that end, the PT worked with them both to make sure she was able to safely be transferred (by him or someone else, I wasn’t sure) to/from cars and chairs so that he could attend the wedding. In the end, she showed a picture of Ed dancing with his granddaughter at her wedding, with Pat in the background just smiling away. It was a great reminder that patient goals aren’t always as simple as “walk my daughter down the aisle”, and can even include making sure your own patient is a safe caregiver for another person. Love it.
The session ended with a video about a program called Laughysema. The gist of it is that there’s a group that gets together and does some light exercise (think Tai Chi style movements), then…laughs. The idea is that laughter, literally serving as medicine, helps COPD patients increase forced exhalation, which leads to improved ventilation.

Seriously, I dare you to watch that video and NOT giggle.

After that session Saturday morning, I wandered the expo again (for the 3rd time…don’t judge) and made a few more connections. One of the vendors (Evidence in Motion) actually used our labs at CU for their brochure photos, which was a great conversation maker. I’m excited to work with them when they come out again in March (just helping run AV and whatnot – pushing buttons is what I do).
They provided lunch for us both days, in pretty sweet reusable (and insulated!) lunch bags. Here’s a picture of the whole setup from another twitterer:

At lunch, we made friends with a couple of other PT students from…I don’t remember where. That was honestly the first time I’d spoken to anyone who wasn’t a vendor or a classmate though. I know these things are meant to be networking opportunities, but honestly…it was just so overwhelming and crowded, and everyone kind of clung to their own school groups that I found myself being far less outgoing than normal. (It didn’t help that I’d gotten in around 2 AM Friday either.) One of the students was a 3rd year, and he had some good insight on how to treat these conferences – I wouldn’t have thought to email vendors I liked, but that was his suggestion. Email the person you spoke with, with a single-line phrase to remind them of your conversation. They’ll remember you, and bam! Connection! I think the next time I go to one of these, I’ll bring some kind of notebook to keep track of who I talked to and want to keep in touch with, and what key things we talked about – if I can’t remember a single vendor, there’s no way they’ll remember me, right?

After that, my classmate headed out and I ran into one of my twitter followers (hey Nicole!). She was literally the first person I’ve ever met from Twitter, so it was kind of a trip to put a face to a username. I look forward to seeing her again at other conferences too. 

I have to admit – at this point, I was getting pretty worn out and was debating calling my ride to pick me up early. I still had one follower to connect with though, and I’m so glad I did! Matt DeBole, the famously bowtied PT twitter circles guy, was promoting a booth for this new program called Log N Blog, that’s going to raise a TON of money for the Foundation for Physical Therapy. There are a few more details to work out before it’s officially unveiled (and I really want to dedicate a whole post to it), but it’s going to be HUGE and a ton of fun! (Hint: dust off your running shoes, pump up your bike tires, and unearth your Speedo – you’ll need them all!)

On that note, I have a bunch of reading/studying to get done before class tomorrow, so I'm off! 


  1. I was at Conclave as well and felt very much the same way on a lot of things about it! Looks like you got more loot than I did though :) I'm really glad I went to the residency lecture too, but no idea what I want to specialize in yet.

    The professor who provided the HIV lecture is actually one of my professors. If there's anything you'd like me to ask him, just let me know!

  2. Nice post Kat! Gave me good insight into what the conference was like, from a student perspective :)

    Here is a photo of some swag I got from a neuroscience conference a few years ago:

    Keep up the good work!