As I flew into the San Antonio airport ready to attend CHEST 2018, I couldn’t help but reflect on the parallel of four years ago when I had attended CHEST 2014, right down the road in Austin, Texas.
It was my intern year and I was so excited to go to my first major medical conference. I remember proudly wearing my badge and trying to look like I fit in as I searched through the itinerary in an attempt to find a topic that was somewhat familiar, interesting, and would further my education. I settled on the CHEST Challenge Championship, a Jeopardy-style game where three pulmonary critical care fellowship programs competed against one another. I sat at the back of the room as the three teams competed. They knew the answers to questions before the stem was even completed on topics that were completely foreign to me. I didn’t know a single answer. I watched in awe and was inspired by these people that were just a bit older than me that seemed to just know everything; it was invigorating and served as a fantastic push early in my career.
Later that day, I nervously presented my poster and then returned back to my intern year in Chicago, re-fueled and ready to learn.
Fast-forward four years and now I’m in my second year of pulmonary critical care fellowship and very excited, but nervous for my first oral presentation at CHEST 2018. Rather than haphazardly picking which events I would check out as I did in my intern year, I meticulously planned out the talks I would attend, centered on my interests of pulmonary transplant, interstitial lung disease, and critical care. I participated in the post-talk discussions, I met and networked with some of the biggest names in these fields, I contributed to my field with my review on a rare interstitial lung disease, and I even knew a decent amount of those Jeopardy questions (whew!). I felt like I was finally beginning to fit in.
I have to applaud CHEST, because it is easy to feel like you fit in when CHEST is so clearly invested in its young learners. I think this is best illustrated by the opportunity I had to attend the CHEST 2018 Fellow’s course (special thanks to my program director who sent me!) This is a daylong course before the official conference kicks off that is dedicated to the hands-on learning of pulmonary critical care fellows. Experts from around the country volunteer their time to further our education in various skill subsets within our field such as ventilator and airway management, procedural skills, and interpretation of radiographs, right heart catheterizations, and echocardiograms to name a few. This truly got the conference off to a great start and it continued on from there.
Sometimes in the midst of our training, it is easy to become discouraged at the long road and to feel things are stagnant at times. It is important for us as young learners to take the time to reflect back and just compare where you were even a few years prior and see that exponential growth and maturity in yourself. CHEST 2018 really helped me accomplish this.
More importantly, CHEST 2018 still had that same sparkle it did four years ago. I was still intimidated and spellbound to be in the presence of such great minds and a culture that is conducive to the furthering of medical knowledge and research through collaboration, sharing, and for young learners like me, mentorship. In this weeklong conference, the forefront of medicine is almost tangible and it is so invigorating and refreshing to be a part of it all. I cannot wait for next year.
Katherine Young is in her second year of pulmonary and critical care fellowship at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois. Her career interests include lung transplantation, interstitial lung disease, and critical care. She has no conflicts of interest.