Attend CSM? I Vote Yes!
5 minute read
As a first-year physical therapy student who only had a semester of classes under his belt and no professional conference experience, I didn't know what to think when I first heard about the 2020 Combined Sections Meeting in Denver, Colorado.
I overheard some of the second-year students talking about how excited they were to go and learn from some of the best professionals in the field, and how they wished that they had gone during their first year. After hearing two students talk about all the great opportunities that are available at this conference, I knew that I had to go and see what CSM was all about.
The day that we got the email saying that registration was open, I jumped on my computer to secure a spot, only to realize that in order to complete the registration process, I needed to pick out what sessions, business meetings, and events I wanted to attend. At first, I didn't think that this would be too tough, but boy, was I wrong.
I opened up the session list to start the selection process and there were what seemed like hundreds of options. And to top it all off, that was just for the first day of the conference. I now fully understand why it's considered the largest physical therapy conference in the nation. Sheesh!
Two and a half weeks later (I know, maybe a little procrastination on my part), I was registered and ready to go — or so I thought. The next step was figuring out transportation and housing. Luckily, one of my fellow classmates (shout out Sarah) found an awesome and affordable Airbnb that was only a 10-minute drive to the convention center. This made travel to and from the conference very easy, thanks to Lyft and Uber. I booked my flight from Madison to Denver and let the anticipation begin.
As a group, my classmates and I wanted to get there the day before CSM started. This allowed for time to explore Denver and its surrounding areas, get some studying and homework done, and finish up any last-minute preparation for CSM. Thankfully, our program was extremely helpful and encouraging, providing us with financial assistance to attend and making it possible for us to take this time away from the classroom.
Upon arrival to the convention center the next morning, I immediately felt a mix of emotions. I was excited, nervous, and a little overwhelmed. The place was flooded with thousands of people with different backgrounds and experiences, but all with a shared passion for physical therapy and a desire for continuing education. It was inspiring! At that moment, I knew that I was in the right place.
As a student who just started physical therapy school, I was still trying to figure out where my own passions lie and what setting would be most appropriate for me. I remember thinking about whether or not I had picked the right sessions, and what if the session wasn't what I had expected. However, I quickly realized that there are no "wrong" sessions at CSM, since all the presenters are highly regarded and distinguished in their respective areas.
Coming to this realization allowed me to take full advantage of the opportunities presented. I attended sessions in a variety of areas like stroke rehabilitation, blood flow restriction training, athletes returning to sports, and many more. This truly made me appreciate the diversity within our field and encouraged me to continue to explore my options for the future.
In addition to all of the incredible sessions, CSM is a great place for networking and meeting new people. Everyone who I interacted with had a unique story and shared with me how they got to where they are today.
If you decide to attend CSM, I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and talk to new people. Sign up for that SIG meeting that you're curious about or the evening social with people you don't know. You never know who you could meet and how it could potentially help you in the future when seeking out new opportunities or applying for jobs and residencies. It was definitely uncomfortable for me at first, but based on some of the people I met, I am very glad that I did it.
I can't write about my experience at CSM without mentioning the exhibit hall. If you like entering your name into raffles and collecting freebies (like a brand-new Thera Cane), this is the place to be. I swear that you could walk away from the exhibit hall with a new wardrobe, some lunch, and a backpack full of stress balls, pens, and so much more. In all seriousness though, the exhibit hall is great and not just because of what was mentioned above. There are hundreds (maybe even thousands) of exhibitors to speak with. I found myself speaking with representatives from places where I was hoping to do future clinicals, recruiters for companies that I could potentially work for after graduation, and students and clinicians who were presenting their different areas of research. I even got a chance to try out some new rehabilitation technology and innovations, which was really cool!
In fact, being exposed to some of the research that my fellow colleagues were involved in made me want to get involved. As a result, I have been actively seeking out research opportunities within my program, with future goals of sharing my knowledge with someone who is in a similar situation that I was before attending CSM. Additionally, my experience at CSM helped narrow down my interests in physical therapy, plan out my clinical rotations, and kick-start my thoughts about where I could see myself after school.
So if you find yourself contemplating whether or not you should attend the next CSM, I vote yes. Should you be worried that you don't have enough experience in school? Based on the opinion of a first-year student, no. As long as you are willing to try something new and open yourself up to everything that CSM has to offer, you will come away with an unforgettable experience.
Couldn't make it to CSM 2020? Join us June 3-6, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona for APTA's NEXT Conference and Exposition. Learn more and register.
Joe Chapman, SPT, is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and serves as the APTA student representative for his class. You can connect with Joe via email.