We are just about a month away from the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, held this year, May 4–10, in Philadelphia. Most people are firming up their plans to attend by now (Neurology Insights team included), but you may still be on the fence. You’ve probably already weighed the value of all the new science and networking opportunities the meeting offers. But you may not have thought about how much you might gain from the personal stories you’ll chance to hear if you attend. Why are these stories important?
Because practicing neurology today can be really hard.
“You are dealing with life and death and an ever-changing body of knowledge,” said neurologist Heidi Schwarz in our post The Financial Cost of Burnout. “That’s been the same for years and years. What’s been added is the frustration of another layer of bureaucracy and documentation that distracts us from what led us to medicine in the first place.”
Finding out how someone else has faced and solved any one of these increasingly complex issues can be reassuring and even life-changing. New perspectives given via personal stories may come from old friends or complete strangers at the AAN meeting. In our experience some of the most inspiring stories come from speakers, whether shared during talks or in conversation after.
Like the stories about volunteering in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, shared by neurologists Anthony Alessi and Elaine Jones at the 2017 meeting. They highlighted the value neurologists can bring to poor and underserved countries like Haiti. They also talked about how much they received from their experiences. Alessi described the experience as life-changing, and both he and Jones have continued their volunteer work since.
Also at the 2017 meeting, neurologist Donn Dexter shared how he combats burnout through advocacy. Before 2012, Dexter says he was like a lot of neurologists experiencing “emotional exhaustion, cynicism, depersonalisation, loss of empathy and career dissatisfaction.” Then, he spent a weekend taking part in the Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum (P.A.L.F.). The training inspired Dexter to get involved in advocacy at the national level, which he says helped him get his spark back.
Also at the annual meeting, neurologists Laurence Kinsella and Neil Busis both shared inspirational stories about how focusing on their own health improved their practice and their lives. Busis, who spoke in 2017, shared the story of how he changed his diet, started exercising, and transformed his work-life balance after a heart attack in 2012. Kinsella, who spoke last year, shared stories about his own fitness journey, and how he helps his patients (and his mom) stay on track.
Also at last year’s meeting, neurologist Kim Hutchison shared how an innovative new daily exercise she calls Joy Rounds helped her and her colleagues bring much-needed levity and humanity back into their work environment. Hutchison says she was thinking about the negative correlation between burnout and resilience when she developed the exercise. Even if you just use it as an icebreaker, the exercise can increase connectedness among team members during a single meeting.
These personal stories are just the tip of the iceberg; we have many more under the category Neurologist Highlight here on our blog. If you do decide to jump off the fence and attend the 2019 annual AAN meeting, come by the Ambu booth in the Exhibit Hall and share your story with us.
At the booth we’ll also be offering quick, 5-minute tutorials on how to utilize our free patient education newsletter. This unbranded newsletter focuses on a different topic each month, and provides your patients with helpful information in short, easy-to-read articles along with a patient education video.
We hope to see you there!