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Our Generation Must Go to More Conferences

In 2006, on a whim, I travelled with several perio residents to the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Osseointegration in Seattle.  I was a general practice resident at Stony Brook with unused vacation days and no idea how to spend them.  So… off to Seattle with me.

I had heard from some faculty that this conference was one of the greats.  First-rate lecturers, international colleagues, and focused discussions on implant surgery and restorations.  I had already restored my first “hybrid” in residency so I thought I was a pretty big deal.  Dr. Edward Schlissel, a Stony Brook Professor at the time, was going to include in his presentation a case I had treated with Scott Froum.  I’m surprised my inflated ego was able to fit on the airplane.

This was my first clinical conference.  I had been to numerous meetings of the American Student Dental Association and even a couple of ADA Annual Sessions, but those had been more for leadership training and politics.  I had never seen a gathering of clinicians discuss the art and science of dentistry on such a large scale.

My reaction from that first clinical conference was similar to how I felt when I recently returned to Seattle in 2014 for another Academy of Osseointegration meeting, now 8 years later.  I feel energy, humility, and confidence in that exact order.  First, there is a certain kind of electricity in the air when you’re surrounded by dentists from around the world.  So many old friends to see and new aquaintances to make.  Second, I become humbled when I see the beautiful dentistry that is put up on the big screen.  As a cocky resident in 2006 I quickly saw what real dentistry looked like.  And lastly I leave the meeting excited to see my patients Monday morning.  I’ve picked up a few new techniques and I know I’ll look at my cases a little differently.

I’ve become a bit of a conference junky.  I go to as many as I can.  ADA Annual Meeting, ADA New Dentist Conference, Quintessence Symposium, AAP Annual Meeting (I’m not even a periodontist and I love it), Greater New York Dental Meeting… I could go on.  But there’s a big problem facing all of these meetings: people are staying home.

Dentists decide they can’t take the time off from work.  The corporate vendors (who largely pay for the meeting) don’t see as much foot traffic in the exhibitor hall and decide to pay less the following year.  Conference planners start to panic whent they see decreased attendance and shrinking vendor revenue.  Some meetings close, consolidate with larger meetings, or others will continue to exist but on a smaller scale.  It’s up to our generation to reverse this trend.

Are you feeling a little burned out?  Are you looking to get better at a certain procedure?  Are you looking to learn an entirely new skill set?  Do you feel like you’ve been practicing in a bubble?  Buy a plane ticket and get your butt to a dental conference.  I’ll see you there.


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