Maximize your time at medical conferences to create take-home value

Attending a clinical seminar or medical society meeting is a commitment of time and money, and it’s important to get the most out of each one.


 “Whatever new ideas or management points I learn, I note them down systematically somewhere—diary, laptop—as these are my take-home points and I might not remember the finer aspects in the future.”
-Dhiraj Gada, MD, DGO, DFP, FICMCH, reproductive endocrinologist and director of Gada Life ART Center, Indore, India, and a member of mdCurrent-India’s Editorial Advisory Board


While these gatherings can be enjoyable and a time to catch up with colleagues, their real value lies in the knowledge and tips that can be taken home and applied in daily clinical practice.

To be sure you’re investing your time and financial resources wisely, it’s important to do your homework prior to attending a conference. Studying the[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]…

[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()] speakers and programs makes it easier to plan an itinerary that includes sessions that are most valuable to you.

Key Point: Attending medical conferences and seminars requires a significant investment in time and financial resources. You can maximize the take-home value of meetings that you attend by planning your schedule ahead of time, creating action points derived from the sessions, and making time to network with colleagues.

“As soon as the program is declared, identify the topics that you want to attend and which faculty you would like to listen to,” said Dhiraj Gada, MD, DGO, DFP, FICMCH, reproductive endocrinologist and director of Gada Life ART Center, Indore, India. “This makes your involvement more meaningful,” said Gada, who is a member of mdCurrent-India’s Editorial Advisory Board.

Gada attends an average of 6 regional, 4 national, and 2 international conferences a year. He said that the decision on whether to attend comes down to the topic and the presenters.

“In regional meetings, you meet and help colleagues who at times have great ideas, but are not sure how to implement them with existing infrastructure and facilities available. At the national and international level, you get exposed to newer concepts in patient care and at times get thought-provoking ideas, which may be a solution for your till date hopeless patients,” he said.

Prioritizing your time

Sharad Gogate, MD, an ob/gyn and perinatologist in Mumbai, India, and a member of mdCurrent-India’s Editorial Advisory Board, attends 4 to 5 conferences a year. Gogate recommends giving priority to plenary sessions and panel discussions, but he also reserves some time for the scientific exhibitions, where he can learn about and purchase new surgical instruments.

There are many good reasons to attend medical conferences, and your schedule can book up quickly at these events. For Gada, the priorities are:

  • identifying interesting sessions to attend based on the topics and faculty;
  • viewing the poster sessions and Abstracts that often feature emerging clinical research and case studies;
  • visiting commercial exhibit areas to see and learn about new products and surgical techniques;
  • engaging in networking and fellowship with colleagues, teachers, students, and international faculty.

Increasing take-home value

The amount of new information presented at a conference can be overwhelming and easily forgotten if not recorded.

“Whatever new ideas or management points I learn, I note them down systematically somewhere—diary, laptop—as these are my take-home points and I might not remember the finer aspects in the future,” Gada said. “It also serves as a reference point, and whenever I get a patient with a relevant problem, I implement the knowledge gained.”

Family physician Pragnesh Vachharajani, MD, also a member of the mdCurrent-India Editorial Advisory Board, said he always takes notes during presentations and supplements them with handouts when available. In some cases, he added, he will read the Abstracts once they are published in medical journals or watch lectures on DVDs available after the conference.

To attend or not to attend

Decisions about whether to attend a conference should take into account the event’s topic, duration, location, and cost. Considering those factors makes it easier to calculate the potential return on investment from attending.

Vachharajani said he will not attend conferences where he knows the presenters are poor communicators or where the subject matter is promotional in nature.

Like anything, the value that you can derive from a conference depends largely on what you put into it. If you plan your schedule ahead of time, you will be more likely to maximize your time at the conference.

Making time for networking is also important. After all, as is often said, some of the best information shared at medical conferences takes place in the hallways, on a colleague to colleague basis.

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