My Conference Experience
The 43rd Annual Southern Gerontological Society
Three weeks ago, I had the honor of attending my first professional conference for the Southern Gerontological Society in Panama City, Florida. I am currently serving as the student representative for the society, so much of my participation was in student related programming. However, I also was able to attend other sessions through the week and network with various professionals in the gerontology field. Below are some highlights from the conference!
One of the most inspiring and meaningful parts of the week was meeting incredible people from many different geographic locations, backgrounds, and niche topics within gerontology. Some people were clinicians, some social workers, some administrators, some educators, among others. The types of careers in gerontology represented by the conference participants was truly inspiring. Being able to discuss issues in gerontology with people who bring unique perspectives and immense knowledge to the conversation was such a rewarding learning opportunity. These conversations reminded me how many incredible people are working to improve the lives of older adults and how lucky I am to have been a part of this group.
One session that was a major highlight of my conference experience was titled, “Incorporating the 4Ms to Improve Patient Care: Integrated Memory Care Clinic’s Journey to Become an Age-Friendly Health System”. The session was led by Laura Medders and Carolyn Clevenger from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Their presentation shared how they created a clinic specifically designed for patients living with dementia to get primary care and other services all in one place. They discussed how they were able to achieve Age-Friendly recognition from the Institute on Healthcare Improvement using the 4Ms framework: What Matters, Medication, Mentation, and Mobility. Not only was their presentation thought-provoking, relevant, and innovative, but after the session both presenters took time to answer questions I had about their program and discuss their inspiring work. What a great experience!
I was honored to be a part of a panel discussion run by the SGS Encore Committee about professional development, with a focus on mentoring relationships. I shared my student perspective on what it is like being in a mentoring relationship. Some of the points I discussed were regarding setting expectations for your mentoring relationship. How often will you meet? What modality of communication will you use? What topics will you discuss? Questions like these are great to set expectations at the beginning of a relationship in order to ensure both people are on the same page. These expectations can of course evolve and change as the relationship continues. Some of the other people on the panel included Ed Rosenberg from Appalachian State University, Graham Rowles from University of Kentucky, Paula Steffens of University of North Georgia, Althea Taylor Jones, ACAPcommunity, and Jodi Teitelman from Virginia Commonwealth University. It was an honor to present with all these incredible people.
Not only did I have such a positive first conference experience, but I also spoke with many people about future opportunities. Some of these were career related and some were focused within the society itself. I was greeted throughout the conference with people in the field who were eager to involve students in their work and practice. This positive experience of professionals being excited about the future of gerontology is something I want to share with other students. It can sometimes be daunting to speak with people who are so accomplished and successful in the field you are intending to work in, but just remember that so many professionals are excited to welcome in the next generation to their field. We are the next generation and we should be excited to speak with those who have come before us to learn and collaborate until we ultimately carry on the field in new and innovative ways.