AOTA 12 Opening Ceremony – April 26, 2012
While my mind is still full from AOTA 12, I wanted to capture some of my thoughts and experiences from the conference.
1. The attendance was great!!!
I saw some reports that the attendance neared 6000! It felt like a lot of people were there – but in a good, energetic way. In my recollection, this may have been one of largest attended conferences since AOTA 2003 in Washington DC. Location obviously impacts attendance, but it is surely a reflection of the health of the profession. Also the large number of student attendees is always wonderful to see. The future of profession is is in wonderful hands with the energetic, committed, and enthusiastic OT students who will be entering the profession. Additionally, the facilities in Indianapolis were great and the organization of the conference was first-rate!
2. An open journal for OT has arrived!
I have attended many education conferences where the concept of open access journals has been discussed, and I think this is an exciting development for OT. The Open Journal for Occupational Therapy has launched and manuscripts are now being accepted. The editors have been very thoughtful in their approach and are undoubtedly committed to expanding the opportunities to disseminate knowledge about applied clinical research, educational research, and innovations in the field. For more information visit OJOT!
3. Increased emphasis on OT education research
Without a doubt, AOTA’s focus on evidence-based practice can be seen in the focus of conference and the content emphasis of AJOT – and that is a good thing. The challenge (in my experience) is that OT educators start presenting at other conferences and publishing in other education journals. While this has its benefits, I do think it has the potential to dilute a critical mass of OT education research from being developed. It is interesting to see how other health professions such as nursing, physical therapy, and dental hygiene have proceeded to develop discipline-specific education journals and related conferences. The EDSIS OT Education Research Forum shared many ideas related to developing an organized OT education research agenda. They also discussed plans for an OT Education Summit in October 2013 in Atlanta. These are exciting endeavors!!!
4. The social media presence was exciting!!!
From the theme of the Slagle Lecture (@promotingOT) to presentations, OTs adoption of social media has truly become evident! This is the first time that I recall of AOTA specifying a conference hashtag and promoting it so well prior to the event. While the number of people tweeting was still very small relative to the attendance, it was a dedicated group! Perhaps most important were the conference presentations related to the use of social media in OT. I think providing examples and personal experiences is one of the best things presenters can do when introducing the benefits to others. Although I was unable to attend their session, there was a group who undoubtedly did just that! This is so timely and exciting to see!
5. Personal relevance of social media
For me, this conference was such a reinforcement that the time and effort spent engaged in using social media for professional purposes is time well-spent. For instance, Susan Burwash (@subu_OT) and I could barely contain our excitement upon instantly recognizing each other in a session. It truly was a warm greeting between two friends – although we had never met in person before that day!!! But in coming to “know” each other through social media over the past year or so, we knew about each other’s work and aspects of our family life and interests. And it was wonderful to see Anita Hamilton (@virtualOT) who I had the good fortune to meet at WFOT 2010, but have continued frequent contact with over the past two years via social media.
6. Never underestimate the value of attending your professional conference
At this point in may career I have been to quite a few AOTA and state-association conferences. I also attend a number of education conferences. I can remember being a novice therapist and feeling as if conferences were a lifeline to continuing to grow my knowledge and skills. And while there is always the need to continually learn and add new skills throughout your career, I think most would agree that your learning needs change over time as you amass a variety of experiences. Conferences are places to attend sessions to learn new things, but they are also invaluable if not irreplaceable opportunities for networking and finding collaborative opportunities with others. But perhaps most importantly, it is an annual opportunity to step out of your routine and pause to reflect on new ideas and opportunities. It can become very easy to want to continue with your current routine and feel you don’t have time to take time away from your practice, your facility, your clients, your teaching and grading requirements (yes – it is now finals week for us!), and the rest of your life responsibilities. But it is so important to remember that conference is a time for renewal. A time to learn from your peers and see the many wonderful things that occur in our field; and to consider ways to continually incorporate innovations in our daily work.
All in all, it was a great conference and I truly came home with many new ideas and renewed energy! See you in San Diego (#AOTA13).