I anticipated CHEST to be a valuable experience of meeting people and learning medicine—what it turned out to be was so much more. The main portion of the conference was filled with the scientific discovery expected at a national conference of this caliber. Lecture after lecture included discussions about practical skills, newly approved medications and utility, and the future of diagnosis or treatments just on the horizon. Many times, I ended up in the overflow room and flipped back and forth between two lectures that held titles that both seemed captivating in hopes of absorbing both simultaneously. This was my first time attending CHEST where I was able to appreciate the value it would add to me as an annual event to supplement my learning while in private practice.
My CHEST conference experience began with the leadership development course. This all-day course was the best leadership training I have had at any point in my career. It taught hands-on practical tools that will be instantly utilized in my daily life. In medicine, we lack the foundational knowledge of being taught business, leadership skills, and managing people. At this course, I was able to fill in some of the personal knowledge gaps I had identified and develop tools that are adaptable to a vast array of situations, personal and professional. It’s a coursework that should be mandatory for all physicians, especially those working in an academic setting. Some of the key topics were around teamwork and conflict management.
I attended many CHEST Foundation events including the Breakfast of Champions, the Young Professionals Reception, and the NetWork Trainee Mixer. These events were designed to encourage people to meet and network. I was able to meet many new colleagues, mentors, research collaborators, and friends of all stages of careers. I left many of the events with the high of a youth returning from summer camp: invigorated, stimulated, and optimistic.
I enjoyed the collective enthusiasm felt at these events by young and old. The opportunity to network with people all across the organization was priceless. Both opening sessions provided fantastic keynote speakers with messages of empowerment and passion. I especially enjoyed hearing from John O’Leary on the impacts of attitude can have and how one person can make a difference in the world.
The remainder of my commitments during the conference were involving my steering committee position with the Practice Operations NetWork. It wasn’t until this conference that I was able to fulfill engaging with the position. Being able to meet the other committee members in person, getting to know them and their positions, and putting a face to a name are vital. This gave me significantly more interest and motivation to engage with the position. Additionally, I was able to gain an in-depth understanding of the committee’s purpose and responsibilities. This understanding helps me to be more engaged with my position and empowered me to pursue additional responsibilities within my committee.
At many points in my conference time I would introduce myself to someone near me in the lunch line, waiting for a lecture to start, or in passing with our CHEST ID tags around our neck. I found out they were somehow connected to me through my NetWork committee and shared mentors, common medical school or training locations, or overlapping interests. Many of those faces I then saw over and over again and became familiar on a first-name basis with several of those key people, exchanging numbers or emails for future contact.
For me, this was the key value in the CHEST experience. It’s a vast organization filled with many valuable members, but it still feels like an intimate family of supporters and mentors. I left the conference with a group of advocates in my corner, cheering me on and pushing me toward greatness. A team that could quickly recognize my potential, welcome my strengths, and utilize my willingness. A team of people who want to see me succeed in ways that I can’t even yet imagine. A team of people who have set the example of how to be successful in ways beyond medicine.
CHEST changed my view of the horizon. It gave me a hope for my future and a renewal of the passion of my career. It is with this mountaintop sensation that I return to the grind of the everyday with a smile on my face and a love for the practice of medicine.
Megan Sisk, DO, is an internal medicine fellow at Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Sisk is a 2017 CHEST Travel Grant recipient and a member of the Practice Operations NetWork.