It has been a month since CSM 2017 and you’ve more than likely started to get back into the routine of things… 

If you’re reading this and had the chance to attend CSM 2017, you’re likely coming down from the “high” of sorts that you experienced there. You had an opportunity to meet some of the brightest minds in our profession, attend a multitude of engaging courses and lectures, and hopefully you made some connections while you were there. You may have noticed that #socialPT was trending on twitter, and there were over 14,000 others attending with you! I read something I found somewhat amusing after hearing about the record attendance on the APTA website: “CSM 2017 will bring together 11,000 of the brightest and most innovative professionals for the BIGGEST conference on physical therapy in the country.” I find it amusing, but also encouraging. With more people than ever attending CSM this year, we now have more individuals engaged and striving for excellence, and I truly am excited for what the future holds.

However, now reality sets in. You’re back in your classes and the daily grind of what is PT and PTA school, and you may now be wondering, “Now what?”

APTA asked individuals on Twitter to respond with their top 3 takeaways from the event and include the hashtag #APTACSMTop3. One in particular was very interesting and insightful to me, and prompted me to share his response on this blog. The response was from Rob Landel, a professor and clinician at USC, who also happens to be the director of the DPT and residency programs there:

1. Meet. Greet. Repeat: Connections
2. Know. Grow. Sow: Pass it on
3. Reflect. Recharge. Renew: Bring it home

Meet. Greet. Repeat: Connections

The meeting part can be somewhat difficult, as it can be overwhelming with that many people there. Prior to CSM I worked on a Q&A article with Amy Arundale, a sports physical therapist, on how to network at CSM. If you haven’t read it yet, I would suggest reading it for future conferences to gain some valuable insight from someone who has been in your shoes. You can find that article here: Networking Article with Amy Arundale.

Another response on Twitter reminded me of this post, this time from Christi Rolin, a DPT student at Georgia State:

“I’m a small fish in a large pond. The pond is full of awesome fish.”

However, I would argue that the pond is not as large as you think, and everyone in our profession seems to know one another in some shape or fashion. Don’t hesitate to make superficial connections at the conference. The expectation that you will make deep, meaningful connections at your first conference is somewhat unrealistic, but if you are able to do so more power to you. The reality is that you may talk to someone at a pub night, a social, or maybe even an alumni event. You may speak to them for 5-10 minutes, potentially grab some contact information, and both be on your way. My challenge to you is to follow up with these people! Stay in touch and reach out to them on a consistent basis to maintain the already established relationship. You will likely see them at future events and other conferences, and it will be much easier to build off of a previously established relationship if it is not your first time talking to each other in several months. Despite what people may believe about my next statement, I have found it to hold true in job positions and experiences in the past: “It is not what you know but who you know.” Connections don’t hurt, and you may even establish a mentor-like relationship from one established at a conference like CSM.

Know. Grow. Sow: Pass it on

If you’re a student you probably came to these realizations while at CSM: a) I know more than I thought I knew… AND b) I still have so much to learn. At CSM you have the ability to attend many great presentations with many great speakers, and it is likely that you did not retain as much as you would like to think. So do this if you have not already: Print out the powerpoints that you have access to and REVIEW them. Last year I remember being so engaged in a lecture by Ann Cools, Lori Michener, and Joshua Cleland about the shoulder and scapulothoracic interface. When I left there, I was so passionate about exercises for scapular control, diagnostic criteria for various shoulder pathologies, and had some insight into manipulations of the spine. I came back to school and guess what we covered next: the shoulder. Sure that I would remember some of the information, I started sharing some of what I had learned with some close classmates. The more they inquired the more I realized I needed to double-check and go back and review my notes.

So just a suggestion: Print out your notes if you haven’t already and review them. Maybe not now, but soon. Keep reviewing them frequently and attempt to apply what you learn from the lectures as much as possible to make it stick. And share these lectures with others. Not everyone can attend every single conference, especially as students. So I would suggest even sharing the presentations or notes from the classes you went to with other classmates. For instance, I could not make AAOMPT this past year but had a friend share some presentations with me. So what do I do? Out of excitement of everything he learned at this conference I have made this year’s conference a priority for me.

Encourage others to participate in these conferences and hopefully by sharing the content you learned you will make them more excited about the profession and push the profession forward, one person at a time.

Reflect. Recharge. Renew: Bring it home

In reflecting on my experience at CSM last year, I remember how it was just like something clicked and all of the sudden I saw the bigger picture. Your reflection may be different than mine. It may be that you gained self-confidence and want to be more involved in organizations, or that you are really interested in a special interest group that a section has to offer. Whatever it may be, reflect and act on it. In saying that, I hope that some of you (if you are like me) have been able to get some much needed R&R since coming back to reality from the conference. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this year, but I remember it took me a week or two to recover last year. But now it is time to channel that passion from the conference into action moving forward. So if you haven’t done so already I suggest taking the following actions:

  1. Set goals for yourself. Don’t make so many that you never achieve any of them, but even set some action items for each goal. Set some short-term and long-term goals, and outline how you are going to achieve them.
  2. In addition to establishing the goals, prioritize them.
  3. Talk to someone about your goals. Whether it be a professor, mentor, or peer, speaking about the goal only makes it more real for you, and others may be able to offer insight into how you can best achieve them.

I hope your experience at CSM 2017 was a positive one. I encourage each one of you to push yourself to further develop as a professional or individual, and hope that you continue to pursue excellence in your future endeavors. For those of you who may not have been able to attend the conference in San Antonio, I would highly encourage you to attend NEXT in Boston this June 21-24. Registration and information can be found here: APTA NEXT conference information and registration.

If you have any questions/comments about this article, please feel free to let us know in the section below! Thanks for reading!