If I said this once, I said it a hundred times this past week at the annual AAPA Meeting in Indianapolis. Like many parts of our lives, our relationships with friends and colleagues have been severely impacted by the pandemic over the past two years. We missed out on everything from small talk to issues that affect our personal lives and professional lives. The pandemic forced us to look at what types of relationships we lacked and needed and the connections we already had. Many said Zoom was great, but it pales in talking face-to-face!
The best part of this week was walking between the hotel and the convention center. While only a five-minute walk, sometimes it would take 20-30 minutes because of stopping and saying hello to someone you haven't seen in years. So lovely to see the smiles and give (and get) the long-sought-after hugs.
Was it me, or were we even more civil to one another, even in the face of having different opinions about the issue brought up in the House of Delegates? I think so. Acknowledging that we have different views from one another was valuable and so much easier than in a virtual environment.
It was inspiring to attend the opening meeting of the conference and hear from Jane Pauley, an award-winning journalist, and Simone Biles, an exceptional athlete. What did they talk about? The much-needed conversation about depression and mental health, and particularly a frank discussion about their own mental health. They gave us advice about self-care and strategies for our patient's mental well-being.
Many participated in the PA Foundation's Party-For-A-Purpose with live entertainment. There was food, drinks, and dancing at Howl at The Moon in downtown Indianapolis. This raised money for the Foundation's efforts to promote better health through philanthropic opportunities. It was great to see many of our leaders on-stage dancing and singing.
Another inspiring meeting was the AAPA awards ceremony attended by hundreds (maybe thousands) of smiling PAs and PA students who applauded with flashing cones at recognizing the awards given to our peers. This was particularly true when Dave Mittman and Beth Smolko, both past presidents of AAPA, were recognized for their exceptional leadership over the past few years. A well-earned standing ovation occurred. The long-awaited new brand for the AAPA and profession was announced. Touted as more than just a theme, it is a new brand campaign for the newly named American Academy of Physician Associates. The phrase “PAs GO BEYOND” will be at the forefront of future professional advocacy. The message is that PAs go beyond by communicating clearly, collaborating closely, and advocating tirelessly.
Kalen Jackson, vice chair and owner of the Indianapolis Colts, shared with the attendees a community-based mental health initiative funded by the Colts aimed at raising awareness about mental health disorders.
The ceremony showcased Hayley Arceneaux, a cancer survivor, a St. Jude Research Hospital PA, and a commercial astronaut- being the first PA to go into space. Her story was insightful.
During the conference, many hospitality events were held by constituent chapters, universities, and specialty organizations, where we could raise a glass of wine to celebrate our getting back together and the profession's future. The exhibit was packed from opening to close with PAs and students wanting to learn about everything from new pharmaceutical drugs to malpractice to new Doctor of Medical Science programs for PAs. It was also a great place to get neck massages and coffee and sit and talk with your colleagues between CME offerings.
The pandemic has been a friendship wake-up call for us all. The AAPA conference was just the right infusion of love and affection needed and this point in our professional lives. We should strive to stay in touch with the people who make a difference in our professional and personal lives. The conference highlighted the profession's success and gave us the enthusiasm needed to take it to the next level.
My Goodness! It was so good to see you all!
Randy Danielson, Ph.D., PA-C Emeritus, DFAAPA has no conflicts of interest to report.
Illustration by April Brust