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Feb 14, 2011

Conference Battle

I have spent the last week at my very first national conference, my first “business trip”. From a professional standpoint, it was an honor to be invited to participate and attend. I presented research that I did over the summer in the form of a poster, which was displayed in one of five poster sessions in a large conference room with approximately 50 others. I stood in front of my poster, dressed in heels and a conservative sweater, wearing my best I’m Smart But Please Don’t Ask Me Questions smile, while conference-goers milled by and occasionally stopped to read what I’d brought. The experience was singularly odd, in that I felt overly pressured and stressed by the questions while feeling completely slighted by those who passed me without comment.

I presented details and results of a new obstetrical procedure that the attending I worked with in June was investigating. I had scrubbed in on a few of the cases, but by no means knew the intricacies of the procedure or the details about the training required to perform such a feat. This made me an odd choice to be the one to stand in front of the poster to field questions. But, I wrote up the series of cases and I created most of the poster (with a lot of help) and so I was the representative.

Before the session started, I sat in the lobby going over my numbers and justifications and had a good chunk of time to spend fretting. I watched people from the conference leave the hotel in search of coffee or sightseeing and I was secretly glad that their departure would lower the number of potential stumpers I would get in my session. I hung my poster three hours early and returned to it three times to make sure it was still there and in the right spot. I spent the first fifteen minutes of the session hiding. I wasn’t far away, just beyond the radius that one might assume a person was representing the poster in question. I watched people’s reactions to the poster and overheard their comments. Some people thought it was innovative, others thought it was ludicrous and wasteful. Some uttered questions to their friends about my project, some of which I knew the answers to, but I was afraid to jump in for fear that my answers would lead to deeper, more complex questions, which then I couldn’t answer. I was paralyzed and feeling incredibly insecure.

But then I remembered that I can talk to anyone about anything - it’s kind of what I do – and this was something that I actually knew something about and had worked hard to get presented here. It occurred to me that this session was no different than an attending pimping students on the ward; mostly people wanting to talk about their own experiences, not really ask questions about what I was presenting. I found that the legitimate questions that did surface were mostly ones that I could answer, confidently even. People could then decide if they liked the idea or not, but their decision had nothing to do with me or my presentation (to say nothing of my knowledge or self-worth). By the end of the session, people were complimenting me on my command of the material and congratulating me on presenting a poster as a medical student at a national subspecialist convention.

Final Tally:

Katie!   1       Self-Doubt Demons   0.5  (I was HIDING. Shameful.)

3 Readers rock!:

Mary Brandt said...

Congratulations! It is a big deal to present at a meeting as a medical student. Your description brought back some great memories, too!

thuc huynh, md said...

nicely done! i love and hate to present at meetings. i take ativan and propanolol !

rula said...

katie, that is a great story! good for you for overcoming the self-doubt and being awesome :)

i came to your blog via your medscape blog and i'm really enjoying your entries.. i too am applying to ob/gyn! (I HOPE WE MATCH). lots of luck to you.