A Medical Student’s Experience at the AACOM’s Educating Leaders 2023 and Why It is Important to Attend Conferences
May 24, 2023
From April 26 to April 28, 2023, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) celebrated its 125th anniversary at the Educating Leaders 2023 (EL23) conference in Baltimore, MD. Considered to be the Osteopathic Medical Education event of the year, EL23 was a gathering of 44 exhibitors, 80 poster presenters, over 400 speakers, and more than 1,000 attendees consisting of medical students, residents, fellows, educators, and administrators from all over the nation.
EL23 was my first ever in-person conference, but it will not be my last. There are so many medical conferences that are free for students, and EL23 was no exception. Understandably, not all students can attend due to time, travel, and accommodation challenges. Nevertheless, EL23, like so many other conferences, does make their materials available online. This further expands the knowledge that is shared through the conference.
Attending EL23 in person made me realize the value of in-person conferences. With so many important people gathering at one event, conferences are an amazing opportunity to network with others and build a community. As a medical student, EL23 allowed me to network with different residency programs and directors that were present at the conference. I got to know what they look for in applicants, and what their programs offer to their residents. I also had the chance to meet with other medical students and build camaraderie around our similar experiences, especially with other second years who are about to take the Level 1 exam. Studying for Level 1 can be very isolating but knowing that others are going through the same experience empowered me to keep going. We shared study techniques and even ways on how to take breaks whenever we feel overwhelmed.
Another important aspect of attending conferences is the opportunity to advocate for causes that are important to us. I had the privilege of presenting a poster about barriers that osteopathic medical students face regarding research and scholarly work opportunities. Presenting at EL23 was the best opportunity to raise awareness regarding this topic as the audience were leaders who can make changes to improve research opportunities for students. My nervousness turned quickly into enthusiasm as I conversed with so many individuals who showed support and true concern about the issue I found important. The validation and acceptance that I felt while presenting made me confident about my cause and eager to participate in conferences in the future.
Lastly, and arguably my favorite part of EL23 was the swag! So many medical education vendors were present, and they were all eager to hear that their resources are helpful to students! I personally got totes, shirts, socks, pens, and even OLD BAY seasoning from AACOM themselves—as homage to Maryland! As a broke medical student, I am always open to free stuff—especially if it is resources I can personally use for my studies!
I hope my experience inspires you to attend more conferences in the future, especially ACOI 2023, October 11-14, 2023, in Tampa. The theme is “Health, Wellness, or Medicine?” and will feature a wide array of programming, such as thought-provoking keynote speakers, hands-on POCUS sessions, and an annual poster contest for students and residents! More information can be found below. This event is a great way to build your network and learn new skills that can help us students become effective internal medicine doctors in the near future. I will definitely be at the Annual Convention, and I hope to see you there too!
Joanna Manansala, OMS-II, SOIMA President