My CSM Experience: Nothing Compares to CSM
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) 2017 was one for the record books. PTs, PTAs, and students from all over the country came together for a few days in February to share ideas, learn about the latest happenings in physical therapy and health care, and to network with old and new friends and colleagues. In this blog series we had 3 students share their CSM 2017 experience with us. In part 1 we heard from Katie Ragle, SPT, who attends Regis University. Read her reflection.
In our second recap in the series we hear from Tim Rethorn, SPT, who attends The Ohio State University and has attended multiple professional conferences, though this was his first CSM.
Where do I begin?
I attended my first professional conference last year. Over the course of the year I went to 4 different conference, and at each one I heard my colleagues say "nothing compared to CSM." I didn't quite understand what everyone was talking about, until I attended CSM 2017.
There were more than 14,000 attendees; of those, over 4,000 were students! I know of no other place that collects such an incredible number of leaders and future leaders in our field. I had the pleasure of volunteering at the APTA Student Assembly booth, and was able to reconnect with many of the friends I have made from other conferences.
I attended both NEXT 2016 and National Student Conclave 2016 and I made many friends. CSM was like 1 giant reunion. I joked with my friends and classmates that I couldn't walk 5 feet without seeing someone who I knew. The #PTfam was strong!
Networking seems to be a buzzword when it comes to conferences, but the networking opportunities at CSM have no comparisons. One of the great things about being a student is that the normally friendly physical therapy community is even happier to talk with students. I stopped and chatted with numerous people while I was walking through the convention center (shout-outs to Rich Severin, Sean Hagey, Dustin Jones, Jerry Durham, and everyone else I'm forgetting!).
I cannot talk about CSM without mentioning the more than 1,400 research presentations. Research was woven throughout educational sessions, but especially through the platform presentations and posters. Many of my classmates said that the platform presentations were their favorite sessions of CSM. Platforms bring together researchers to discuss what is on the cutting-edge of our field. It's beyond cool to talk to the researchers whose papers I read in class, and ask them about their niche.
One lesson that I learned from attending other conferences that I applied to CSM was to go to sessions and events to meet and speak with people, not necessarily for what the session was about. I made a list before CSM of everyone who I wanted to speak to, and tried to schedule my days to accomplish that goal. This helped me to strategically pick sessions, otherwise I would have been overwhelmed by the sheer number and range of session topics.
In the midst of 14,000 people, it may be hard to focus on the individual, but some of the most impactful conversations and sessions that I witnessed returned the focus to the individual.
Ryan Smith (who graduated from Ohio State in 2016) presented with Nate Mancillas on mens in pelvic health. In the midst of discussing their experiences as students and #FreshPTs in pelvic health, Ryan shared his personal patient story. During physical therapy school, he had to enter the health care system for pelvic health. It was during this conversation that I had realization that we need to talk about our own experiences as patients, this could prove to be a solid way to connect with our patients. The conversation didn't end there though, we also talked about how difficult PT school can be mentally and physically. We all agreed, physical therapy school is hard and it's ok to ask for help and lean on our support systems! This entire interaction with Ryan and Nate really left me wanting to have more honest conversations like this, and CSM was a place full of other students and professionals you felt comfortable to do that with.
Another discussion point was on burnout and the aura of success and positivity. I talked with Ben Fung and Gene Shirokobrod from UpDoc Media about the personas we project on social media and when we go to conferences. We all want to put forth our best, but this mindset and image could lead people to think that we only have success. Just as Ryan presented his struggles as a student and patient in our health care system, I valued hearing about the failures and struggles of the leaders of our profession.
While the programming throughout the day was excellent, from the lectures and presentations to the exhibit hall, much of the fun at CSM did not happen until after the educational sessions ended. San Antonio is a beautiful city, and the Riverwalk was a popular choice for networking events and parties. Never believe someone who says PTs don't know how to have fun! A few highlights included PT Pub Night at a dueling piano bar, and PT-PAC night with great food and conversations. I highly recommend attending both at any APTA conference that you go to.
One of the challenges that Jerry Durham and Patrick Berner tweeted as CSM ended was this (I'm paraphrasing): "We spent the week learning, growing, and connecting with each other. What will you do with this energy and knowledge? Our profession is changing, just as the health care system is changing. Doors are closing and opening. What will you do to shape the future of physical therapy?"
I know that this is the first of many CSMs for me. The energy that I get from attending conferences is invaluable and indescribable. My passion for our wonderful profession gets topped off to overflowing, and I cannot wait to see you in Boston for NEXT 2017!
Tim Rethorn, SPT, attends The Ohio State University. You can find Tim on Twitter at @TimRethornSPT.