At CHEST 2017, I took on several roles—from faculty member, to mentee, to general attendee. This hybrid experience gave me a unique perspective on how the conference is designed and its many impacts on the fields it serves.
As a faculty member, I could put on my teaching hat. During my three talks related to telemedicine, I was surprised at how few people raised their hands to indicate they use it. There were certainly knowledge gaps and inherent biases present, with some audience members equating telemedicine with “cheap medicine.” Others still believe that telemedicine is not reimbursable (it is) and that telemedicine is still just a pipe dream (it is not). Since telemedicine will continue to grow around us, whether we are ready or not, I hope that my talks will better inform the field about it and its evidence-based deployment in sleep medicine and beyond. I plan to be involved in additional telemedicine-focused sessions at CHEST 2018 in San Antonio.
Aside from my telemedicine talks, I also spoke about shift work disorder and sleep deprivation to the Occupational Medicine NetWork. I learned that the NetWork draws a variety of individuals with interests in occupational and environmental medicine. Few attendees had clinical experience in sleep medicine, so it was a unique opportunity to educate them about this important topic.
I am always struck by the “one room schoolhouse” flavor of these sessions. Based on questions and feedback, some of the audience brought a lot of experience into the room while others were learning much of the material for the first time. I had planned my talk with this dynamic in mind, balancing summary/overview slides with more in-depth material. The talk following mine by Dr. Charles Atwood (sleep disorders in truck drivers) dovetailed nicely with the groundwork I had laid and fleshed out the story further.
In addition to being the teacher, the conference was a great opportunity to be mentored. I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Aneesa Das about her role as Chair of the Sleep NetWork and her many interests within the field. Although we have different training backgrounds (pulmonary/critical care vs internal medicine), our career paths have taken similar forms in academic sleep medicine. At the CHEST Foundation’s Breakfast of Champions, we discussed the difference between being a mentor and a sponsor, how that impacts the relationship, and how to seek out both in one’s home institution. I then had the opportunity to think about those individuals who have served in both of those roles for me both at Emory and elsewhere; it is because of strong mentorship and sponsorship that I received the CHEST Foundation’s Travel Grant, which brought me to CHEST 2017.
Between giving talks and award-related events, I attended several excellent sessions. A highlight was “Teaching the Teachers 2017: A Symposium for Clinical Educators.” Dr. David Schulman led a panel of educators in discussions about various aspects of medical education, from optimizing bedside teaching to remediation of underperforming learners. I was particularly interested in the discussion (lead by Dr. Jack Buckley) about whether or not to have trainees present to patients at the bedside and the nuances as to when and where that style is most appropriate.
A common theme was to know the trainees and know something about the patient ahead of time in order to make that decision. Another interesting part of the discussion was how to provide feedback to faculty. That is, rather than have trainees surprised at end-of-rotation evaluations, it is important to have faculty provide them such feedback throughout their clinical time together. We discussed how giving constructive feedback can be tough with a trainee, but giving that type of feedback to another faculty member can be even tougher. Making the most of those faculty-faculty interactions can have a significant impact on program quality and learner engagement.
Finally, I enjoyed connecting with colleagues from previous training programs and work experiences. I am currently the President of the Georgia Association of Sleep Professionals (GASP) and spoke with current President of the New Jersey Sleep Society (NJSS). Dr. Lee Brooks was one of my pediatric faculty members during sleep fellowship, and we have continued to meet at national conferences. His advice and guidance has been quite useful as I take on new roles as a junior faculty member and with GASP.
This opportunity exemplifies what I am learning more and more about conferences: they are great places to learn about clinical medicine but are even more unique places to network with other professionals outside of the workplace. In many ways, these types of experiences are just as impactful, and may be more enduring, than any medical knowledge I acquired.
Dr. Barry Fields is an active member and faculty of CHEST. Be sure to look for his sleep and telemedicine sessions during CHEST 2018 in San Antonio.