I’m Not on Vacation, I’m at a CONFERENCE [Clinics Series]

Block 6 of my clinical year in vet school is an odd one to describe, because I simultaneously did very little clinical medicine and did (potentially) a whole lot to advance my career.

First of all, if such a thing existed, I would be a card-carrying conference junkie. Counting them out, I’ve attended sixteen conferences in the three years since I started vet school. Most of these conferences include the opportunity to participate in an abstract competition and/or research poster competition, and although I had participated in these before, I was keen to try again before graduation. While planning my clinical year, I had the giddy realization that I hit the scheduling jackpot, as both the conference for the Society for Theriogenology (SFT) AND the conference for the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV) fit into one clinical rotation block.

The zoo conference consisted of themed sessions such as “Carnivores”, “Birds” or “EEHV” (a viral disease of elephants), divided into 20 minute talks on those themes.  As I described earlier, lectures aren’t my favorite right now, BUT these were good lectures because 1) they’re only 20 minutes, which is perfect because that’s roughly how long a good audience can focus; 2) I’m inherently interested in zoo medicine; and 3) some of the speakers are in presentation competitions, so those individuals bring their best performance.

Conferences are weird. They’re basically all about networking, and it’s kind of weird to walk up to someone and say….

Hey, I just met you
And this is crazy
But I’ve read your research
And I’d like to collaborate.

There was one point where I creepily watched the person I wanted to talk to for at least twenty minutes before giving up on my own bravery and getting a mutual contact to introduce us. From listening to my friends’ encouraging remarks (“You can do it! Do you want me to go with you? Just go do it!”), I might as well have been pinned to the periphery of a middle school dance. Womp. Womp. Despite my almost-paralyzing anxiety about talking to important people who can potentially change my life (I mean, why would that be stressful?), I did manage to make two very strong connections for my “next step” as well as multiple other “come see us when you’re in town” connections, so we’ll call it a success!

The Therio conference is a MUCH smaller conference than the zoo conference, which gives it a very different personality. It was also only a three-hour drive away, making it local by conference standards. This enabled us to bring ten students to represent our university, most of which competed in at least one event. Our quiz bowl team won first place, multiple students placed in the abstract competitions, and our club overall was named Student Chapter of the Year (in a tie with another school, to be fair). There were, of course, also lectures to attend and networking to do. I also participated in a small group wetlab that gave me hands-on experience with techniques that I very well may be using as a real doctor in May! This conference was definitely also a success, and I left the conference with just enough time to get to the airport for my next adventure – dairy medicine in New Zealand!


This post is part of a series documenting my clinical year in veterinary school.  To read more from the series, please visit the Clinic Series homepage.

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