It was hard to not feel overwhelmed when looking at the meeting program before this year's Annual AAPM Meeting, especially considering it would be my first time in attendance. But in reflecting on my time in Denver, I realize how the 59th Annual AAPM Meeting enhanced my scientific and professional understanding of our field.
The meeting's theme of "Connecting our Pathways. Unifying our Profession." was particularly evidenced to me through the focus on student and trainee events. Sunday was designated Student and Trainee Day and was filled with an assortment of unique sessions for physicists-in-training. It began with the popular Annual Student Meeting, where we heard from a panel of experienced medical physicists from various backgrounds. They discussed the current state and role of the Doctor of Medical Physics degree, important skills needed to become a successful medical physicist, and how to begin and develop a research career. Following was the joint luncheon and career expo, where we (students and trainees) could enjoy lunch with physicists and representatives to explore potential careers outside the clinic. I participated in a discussion with Dr. Michelle Svantos about the nuances of being a physicist and company CEO, visited with physicists from Standard Imaging about the day-to-day happenings of product managers, and spoke with other like-minded students and trainees about their future interests.
The residency fair was directly after the luncheon, where interested students had the opportunity to interact with faculty and current residents from many programs and learn more about each specific position. This session was valuable because it allowed me to gain a better sense of each program's personality, which is difficult to discern otherwise. This was also a very popular session and seemed to benefit both programs and potential residents alike, especially those planning to participate in the upcoming application cycle.
After the residency fair, I took some time to peruse the poster offerings in the main exhibit halls and survey some of the vendor booths. While merely a graduate student with less than zero spending cache, visiting with vendors gave me insight into vendor-physicist partnerships and a greater appreciation of their important role in helping physicists to improve patient care. Then after eating dinner with some LSU colleagues, I headed to the Great Divide to cap off Student and Trainee Day with the Students and Trainees Night Out. This was a fun event with ping pong, cornhole, craft beer, and a s'more-making station and was held in a large space that was conducive to meeting fellow students and trainees. As with all other events that day, the Night Out was well attended and enjoyable. I congratulate and thank the Students and Trainees Subcommittee for their work and preparation over the past year in hosting these student and trainee-specific events.
Over the next few days of the conference, I attended various scientific and educational sessions that were of interest including: Machine Learning in Medical Physics, Innovation in Medical Physics Education, Inverse Optimization Meets High Performance Computing, Inverse Planning and Optimization, Research Funding, Economic Issues in Medical Physics, among others. Possibly the most notable and professionally relevant to a young trainee was the New Member Symposium. Hosted by the New Professionals Subcommittee, this session was designed to help new members become familiar with AAPM's governance structure, find service opportunities within the organization, and transition from a trainee to a leader within our profession. The information from this session was incredibly enlightening as AAPM leaders (such as President Melissa Martin and Secretary Todd Pawlicki, among others) revealed the importance of persistence and how one's professionalism can matter as much as research or clinical abilities at times. Further, I plan to incorporate the sentiments of professionalism expressed in this session into my career development as I begin PhD studies this fall.
Overall, I came away from AAPM 2017 in Denver both physically drained and mentally inspired. I was pleased to expand my network of fellow students and physicists and strengthen current connections with my professors and former colleagues. I believe the meeting program perfectly complemented the meeting's theme, especially with the emphasis on new member, student, and trainee events. Being a young student member, I appreciate the job performed by AAPM staff to make the most recent Annual Meeting a rewarding and memorable experience. Thank you!
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