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Conferences — 'tis the season!

by Louis on May 1, 2009

I was at the American Society on Aging conference in Las Vegas recently. Why go to conferences?
1. See friends and colleagues
2. Order, organize and validate your thoughts
3. Learn something new, gain new perspective

#1 is pretty obvious. If you go to these things for a few years (or ~15 years in this case for me) you have colleagues who have become friends that you get to see. Catching up makes it worthwhile. It is great to spend time among folks for whom you have respect and with whom you share ideas and dreams. And you know about their careers, families, recreation, etc.

It took me a while to figure #2 out. I am often already thinking about the issues in the presentations I attend. Does that mean I am wasting my time? Absolutely not! The presenter has thought through and organized things that are less organized in my head. Their work helps me grasp some order. I am always thinking but I don’t often have a chance to check my thoughts with others. Are people I respect reaching similar conclusions to those I am reaching? At a conference like this people who are running on parallel or converging tracks give presentations, raise their hand for a question or discuss in the halls or bars. Sharing among colleagues is often validating. Sometimes it is disrupting if you realize your new thinking is flawed or misdirected. What a pleasure!

#3 might be the no brainer. Of course you want to learn new things and hear about new models, demonstrations, approaches and progress. But how about opening your mind to breaking pre-conceived notion and examining your prejudices.

Dr. John Agwunobi opened my eyes. He has incredible public health credentials. Currently he heads of The Clinic At Wal-Mart. I wondered why he would hook up with Wal-Mart? He made it clear. 140 million individuals walk through Wal-Mart weekly! There is no better way to reach as many people as the foot traffic in front of The Clinic at Wal-Mart. He described their model partnering with well respected local providers in each community. I might have had a knee jerk negative reaction to this idea and a guy like Dr. Agwunobi ‘selling out’ . This session helped me gain a reasoned point of view.

What can they do to make a difference? He described using Wal-Mart’s clout to lower drug prices. He explained how other drug outlets followed suit. Leading the pack Wal-Mart has lowered prescription prices for multiple millions. I don’t see a way to complain about that.

I’ve read about Wal-Mart’s effort to be a better citizen with skepticism. Attending this session opened my narrow thinking. I don’t think I’ll love Wal-Mart, but I am glad to have more informed opinions.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jason P May 6, 2009 at 3:56 pm

What would it look like if Wal-Mart decided to take on the Age-in-place and home&health monitoring market?


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