Meeting Season for Physicians

October 20, 2010

There are a lot of meetings and conferences in the fall, and this year I typically overcommitted to several of them. Jet-setting across the country is great when you are Mick Jagger, but it really stinks stuck in coach or ripping off your clothes for security. How did we get to this point? Flying is such a god-awful pain in the neck that I’ve come to dread meeting season.

There are a lot of meetings and conferences in the fall, and this year I typically overcommitted to several of them. Jet-setting across the country is great when you are Mick Jagger, but it really stinks stuck in coach or ripping off your clothes for security. How did we get to this point? Flying is such a god-awful pain in the neck that I’ve come to dread meeting season.

The first conference was ACEP in Las Vegas the last week of September. One of my research projects was accepted as a poster, but I couldn’t afford to spend much time out of town, so I flew in on Monday afternoon and flew out 24 hours later. Just enough time to check into the hotel, shop for gifts for the kids, have dinner with my sister, present the poster and get back to the airport.

It’s too bad because the ACEP meeting is a lot of fun. It’s like a big circus (especially in Vegas) with jugglers and fire-eaters and celebrity impersonators (one of the drug companies had doctors lining up to take a picture with a guy dressed like Elvis), free give-aways, and a real carnival atmosphere, in addition to the lectures and workshops. I bumped into several of my old residents and caught up with them and their lives, which is the best part of attending these conferences.

The second conference was NACCT last week in Denver. NACCT is the biggest international toxicology meeting in the world and my wife and I both had research projects accepted there for presentation. We really were looking forward to that meeting because we lived in Denver for two years when we were first married and we still have lots of friends there. We’ve brought our kids to the tox meeting every year for the past five or six years, and Rika and I take turns watching the kids and attending the lectures. We force the kids to attend the poster sessions and pick out two posters to read and ask questions about. They usually pick one of the snakebite posters or something with a disgusting photo attached to it.

This year was special because our kids had the chance to play with their Denver friends (whom they hadn’t seen in a long time) and our friends offered to babysit, which allowed my wife and me to simultaneously attend the conference without worrying that our kids were playing “elevator operator.” (I was called out of a lecture in San Francisco because the kids were racing each other running up the down escalator.) The toxicology community is a relatively small group and our family has become somewhat notorious for sneaking into the breakfast buffet and feeding ourselves on the cheap. I think that this will be the last year that we attend the NACCT meeting as a family because the school gives us a harder time every year for removing the kids from school for a week.

The next conference is the American Osteopathic Association meeting in San Francisco next week. I was scheduled to go and attend a meeting of the ACOEP Board to discuss the development of a toxicology committee, but after agreeing to attend the AOA meeting I was asked to lecture at the Asia Pacific Association of Medical Toxicology meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, in mid-November. In addition, there are one-day meetings in Washington, DC, and a presentation to the CDC in Atlanta. Oh, and I have a job here at home that I’m occasionally expected to show up for.
I’m exhausted.

The Hanoi trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I feel flattered and honored to be asked to go. And I think it is an important show of solidarity from the American toxicology community to our colleagues in Asia, so I will suck this up and make the trip, but I’ve asked colleagues to fill in for me at the meetings in San Francisco and Atlanta and I’ve declined to attend the meeting in DC.

I came to the realization that I just really don’t want to be away from my wife and kids that much. Besides, I really, really hate traveling. One of my childhood heroes was Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890), a controversial English explorer, linguist, and adventurer. Burton married Isabel Arundell, an aristocratic, intelligent, and resourceful woman, and her husband’s greatest defender. One was never seen in public without the other.

The Burtons travelled everywhere together but the dangers and hardships they endured in 19th century India and Africa pale in comparison to the TSB security at the Philadelphia airport.