The SDAFP (San Diego Academy of Family Physicians) Annual Symposium is this weekend. I’ve attended this conference every year since moving to San Diego in 2011. The conference runs Friday-Sunday and it is jam packed with educational talks given by (mostly local) physicians. I love these conferences. The reasons I love attending medical talks include, but are not limited to the following:
- I’m a nerd who likes school
- It gives me the chance to catch up with old colleagues whom I haven’t seen in awhile
- There’s usually some free food and maybe even some free swag involved
- Hotel ballrooms tend to keep the ambient temperature around 60 ℉
- I can sit in the back of the room and form snarky opinions about the speaker without ever having to justify them to anyone
- Knowledge is power
Reason #6 may sound trite, but it truly is the most important motivating factor for me. Ask any physician in active clinical practice whether he or she knows everything they need to in order to be competent. I defy you to find a single one who gives you an unqualified ‘yes.’ Nobody is an expert on everything, nobody gets 100% on their board exam. It just isn’t possible to robustify one’s knowledge to point where you can be prepared for everything that walks in your office door.
The breakdown of content of a good talk on any given topic (heart failure, menopause, diabetes, etc) may look something like this:
- 25% basic knowledge which I already knew (phew, that’s something I’ve been doing right)
- 25% basic information which I didn’t know (I’ll do that differently in the future. I’m a better doctor now – cool!)
- 25% esoteric/specialized information (don’t know, don’t care, I’m just going to keep referring those patients)
- 25% opinion (speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about, going to check the score of the Cubs game and/or tweet something snarky #SDAFP2018)
In a certain sense, it’s like gambling. Like the blackjack player who always has one more card coming – one more chance to beat the dealer – the conference attendee always has one more bit of knowledge coming. Maybe that next piece of information, that next study they cite will be the one that changes everything. Maybe that will be the final piece of the puzzle – the last thing that I need to know in order to be a fully competent physician.
I’m still enjoying the conference, but things are a bit different now. I’m so fortunate to have a job where the quantity of information I need to have mastered in order to be successful, while still quite a lot, is finite. It is well demarcated, well defined and has neat, straight, blue lines drawn around it. This is one of the things I have deeply longed for. And now I have it. And I’m so much happier.