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Education And Debate

How To Do It: Participate in an international conference

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 28 January 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:249
  1. William A M Cutting, senior lecturera
  1. a Department of Child Life and Health, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 1UW
  • Accepted 19 August 1994

Attending an international conference should be instructive and fun. But it can also be alarming and lonely. Although participating in scientific conferences is now almost essential to medical career development, no medical school describes how to make the most of the opportunity as part of its curriculum. Here are some hints on how to get yourself organised so that the experience can be both scientifically productive and enjoyable. In essence, you should travel, see places, meet people, make friends, and identify one or two ideas that you can apply in your own work or research.

Objectives of participating in a conference

Education is the most obvious objective, the one that you declare on the application form even if the location is the Bahamas and the company you have in mind is not purely professional. However, brushing up on forgotten facts and obtaining the latest information in your specialty may seem more attractive away from the pressures of your own job. Scientific material presented at a conference may be a couple of years ahead of the journals and five years ahead of textbooks. A conference can be the chance of a lifetime to meet some of the big names, even world leaders, in medical science. Medicine has its fair share of pompous prigs, but there are many brilliant workers who are human and friendly. With a few carefully placed questions, you may be seen as someone with a shared interest, and this can grow into a friendship or even a collaboration.

Objectives of participating in an international conference

  • Education—update knowledge

  • Inspiration—hear new ideas and meet professional leaders

  • Evaluation—review your own work and plan for the future

  • Presentation—a platform for your own research

  • Recreation—relax and enjoy the company and culture around the meeting

Perspective and your job—Distance lends enchantment or a perspective to your work. Useful changes may appear obvious from long range; innovations, perhaps …

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