Conference Reflections: PES Baltimore

April 29, 2019

As I mentioned previously, I haven’t been doing much work-related travel recently. In fact, the last pediatric endocrinology conference I attended was also in Baltimore, in 2016!

I was definitely due. As I finish this post, I am wrapping up my 4 day conference experience and headed to the last set of talks before my flight leaves from BWI. It has been such a pleasure to dive back into conference mode, and I am feeling so grateful that I am in the position to get to do this 1-2x every year.

Top 5 Reasons I Love Conferences

1- I get to learn in an envionment that encourages focus. In an ideal world, I would spend a few hours per week keeping up with the latest literature. Unfortunately . . . this ideal world does not exist. At least for me. But conferences provide an artificial environment where I will NOT be interrupted by patient calls or family obligations and can actually focus on learning! It’s amazing how much updating and learning and remembering can happen in a short period (ie, 3-4 days) under these conditions. And it feels so good. I took 21 pages of notes (on my laptop this time) mostly because the act of outlining and recording helps me to stay focused. And I had fun doing it.

2- I get to be an individual and cater to my own needs. I know that when the kids are older, I may feel tempted to make work conferences into a family affair. But I hope that I see this post and fight that urge! I spend the rest of the year (the other 360 days, or 355 at the very least!) playing a very important role in our family unit, always balancing my own needs with the needs of others. Having ~4 days or so to only cater to ME feels downright magical, even if the activities I am doing (attending lectures! catching up on work! exercising in a hotel gym!) aren’t exactly swimming with dolphins in Fiji. Honestly, I could care less. The independence alone is therapeutic and just a freaking TREAT. Even just eating meals (what I want, when I want it, not having to feed someone else!) feels amazing.

3-     It is a confidence-boosting experience for me. I am not immune to imposter syndrome, but events like this help me eschew any thoughts that I am somehow faking it, or even perhaps that I am somehow less worthy for having chosen a non-research-based career path. It helps me to remember that just being here means I am valuable enough to be invested in by my organization! SOMEONE out there feels I am worthy of these days dedicated to just learning and networking in my professional field. (PS: as a medical student it probably would have shocked me that attending have these feelings too, but – there you go. Or maybe it’s just me, but I doubt it.)

4- I love seeing old friends. During this trip, I got to meet up with several Duke mentors, some peds endo friends at different institutions, and even an old friend that I met on the application cycle who happens to live in Baltimore:

she and I stayed in touch through our blogs back before blogs were really a thing! And unlike me, she finished her MD/PhD and is doing wonderful things as a physician-scientist at Johns Hopkins. Go C!

I even love watching other people see their old friends – when two very silver-haired pediatric endocrinologists drop their bags and embrace in a conference room lobby, I get a little pang of excitement. That may be me someday! Seeing old friends is also a reminder that I’m still the same person I was 10, 15, 20 years ago and in a way feels like travel back in time. Which is so much fun!

5- I get to make the schedule! Which means I can build in some relaxation time, as much sleep as I want, workouts, etc. I always make sure to include some total me-time, whether it’s a movie night in with room service (did this last night) or a massage (not this trip, but have done so on others). Even though there is so much to learn, I find I need to take a break at SOME point and usually it’s by day 3 or so. I attended lectures/talks throughout (see above re: over 20 pages of notes) but took some time to myself, too. Love being able to build in some rejuvenation time.

I will note that I did not get to sleep in on this trip because many of the valuable ‘meet the professor’ sessions were at 7 am and I wanted to go to those, plus morning is still how I prefer to fit in exercise! But that’s okay.

Additional bonus experiences this time:

  • One morning I actually got to run a 5K race that was part of the conference, and pulled out a 23:45 (7:45/min pace)! Although Strava says 7:54/mi pace and that the course was a little short, but either way I was very happy. (I didn’t wear my Garmin because I forgot to bring it on the trip!). And now I want to actually train for a 5K . . .
  • I got to record a podcast with Katie Lockwood of Mommy Call Blog and CHOP’s Primary Care Perspectives Podcast on the peds endo perspective in gender diverse care, which was so much fun.
  • I did pump 2x/day (I skipped one night). I’m only making several oz/day, but I just felt like I didn’t want G to ‘ask’ for milk when I returned and then find it all gone. I mean, maybe that would have been a good strategy but . . . I just wasn’t ready. The twice daily sessions (I just did about 20 min) weren’t that annoying. I dumped it all which meant I didn’t have to keep the pumping equipment scrupulously clean either (just gave it a quick rinse after each session). We will see if G is still interested when I get home. If not, I’m honestly fine with it. I just didn’t want to remove the option.

Overall, it was a ton of fun and I am already looking forward to my next one. I’m ALSO looking forward to snuggling A, C, and G (my babyyyyyy) so soon! Tomorrow I will be off from work (strategic) and plan to mostly focus on the kids. Then I start a week of call . . .but I guess I am as fresh as I will ever be at the start of a call week!


  • Reply Amy ~ Focusing on the Fabulous April 29, 2019 at 11:57 am

    I went to my first work conference for my company a few weeks ago and while my days were LONG and some of my time was dictated by activities I had to participate in with my colleagues, I really enjoyed the experience and it also boosted my confidence. Thanks for sharing that point about your own confidence and thoughts on these events. 🙂

  • Reply Dawn Burke April 29, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    I hadn’t traveled for the last 3 years due to a position change at work and just recently went on 2 trips (only 2 nights each) but my kids are 13 and I have to say I have the same feelings as you do about work travel! even though my kids are older, I didn’t have to drive from 4-8pm taking and picking up and feeding them in between so that was a wonderful break! So even as your kids get older I bet you still enjoy your travel time 🙂

  • Reply CBS April 29, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    I love conference travel! I did a three day trip at the beginning of the month and it was great – a colleague popped by my hotel and I was eating sushi, reading a book, with an eye mask. Need to figure out exercise when I’m travelling though – scope out a yoga studio or something.

  • Reply Brenda Calhoun April 29, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Another vote for loving conferences. I always say it’s like sleep-away camp for grown-ups. (Moms, mostly, TBH.)

  • Reply Rebecca April 29, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Too late now but for your next trip, I have gone away several times now and not pumped and was still able to nurse my son to sleep! So the relationship can still exist without the pumping if your body doesn’t feel differently without pumping (I didn’t get engorged anymore once I dropped to morning/night only). I can’t quantify how much I was still able to produce but he nursed like I never left! Everyone is different of course but wanted to share that bc once I was able to for real stop pumping, nursing was just great! 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 29, 2019 at 6:09 pm

      I considered this but chickened out!

  • Reply sreedevi mydam April 29, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    i tried to cheat in cme conference doing chores and taking kids which i feel now not worth it . i feel imposter syndrome seems to be a good CME is the cure

  • Reply gwinne April 29, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    Sounds like a great time! I feel similarly about conferences, from both professional and personal angles.

    I am trying really hard to get both my kids out of the house at the same time this summer (big one to camp, little one to grandma’s) as it’s been EIGHT years since I’ve had the house to myself for a night.

  • Reply BethC April 29, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    YES! Conferences are the best! I was just looking through some old pictures and found some pics of the last conference I went to. The look on my face…pure glee! Looks like you had an awesome time!!

  • Reply Elaine April 29, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful time, I love conferences and just being able to sit and absorb without worrying about when the next call will come or rushing off to sort something else. I also really enjoy listening to the consultants all have great debates and discussion too.

    I’m not sure if you attend many international conferences but I’m headed to the European Society of Paediatric Endo conference in Vienna in September. If you’re headed there I’d love to say hi 🙂

  • Reply Alyce April 30, 2019 at 4:07 am

    Did you have your blog/BOBW meetup? I meant to send an email. Though I’m down in DC, I’m on parental leave with my 6-week old, and imagined that I could drive up. Though I also thought the conference was this week, not last week, so clearly I failed to comprehend what you actually wrote. I blame the baby….

    I’m super pumped about my first post baby conference this May. Even though I’ll still be on leave, it’s in DC, so I see it as three days of adult time away from the baby. I’ll have no real work responsibilities, and will get to see all my colleagues/friends, who I love dearly and miss. I expect it to be super social and fun. And the food is usually quite good!

  • Reply Tyra April 30, 2019 at 5:24 am

    I’m with you on taking notes as a way to stay focussed. It definitely helps, even if I never go back and review the notes!

    I’m planning on going away for a weekend conference with two uni friends in august. We have similar aged kids, and we are all looking forward to an adult trip! I do also like going to conferences where I won’t know anyone though so that I can have lovely solo time.

  • Reply Erica April 30, 2019 at 10:32 am

    I’m so glad you had a great trip! I really love conference travel for all of the reasons you listed. I love buying special notebooks for taking notes but I might start taking my laptop and doing it that way (I end up transcribing them into EndNote anyway … so why do the work twice?!).

    I combined family with a conference right after B was born (he was 4 months old but I HAD to present at the conference) and while it was fun, it definitely felt like I was not giving 100% to either parenting or work that week. We will do it when they are older, especially with international conferences.

  • Reply Cara Rabik May 1, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    It was so great to see you! Loved our catchup – almost 18 years after we first met at our Chicago interview 🙂

  • Reply R May 8, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    I just *left* Baltimore (my home) for my first work conference. My littlest is just over a year and I also felt pressure to pump nights/mornings just in case, and I’m glad I did because she DEFINITELY hasn’t wanted to wean since I got home. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who enjoys (infrequent) conference travel!

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