Making the Most of the ASHP Midyear

By Stephen F. Eckel, PharmD, MHA, BCPS, FASHP, FAPhA
Published Online: Monday, December 9, 2013
If my calculations are correct, this is my 19th American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Midyear Clinical Meeting. It is hard to believe that I have attended so many. Along the way to this year’s event, I witnessed a brief morning snowstorm in Las Vegas and escaped to Atlanta just ahead of a bad East Coast ice storm. Looming above these weather-related mementos, though, is a memory of just how large the meeting seemed the first time I attended. There were people everywhere, few of whom I knew. Also, there were more educational programs than I could possibly take part in, and no one to tell me how to get the most out of the meeting.
 
Over the years, the meeting has come to follow a familiar rhythm. It also feels much smaller than it did at first, even though the total number of attendees has grown. Because I know many more people who routinely attend, I have to deliberately schedule educational sessions, or I will spend all my time networking.
 
Based on almost 2 decades of meetings, here are a few pointers on how to make the most of your ASHP Midyear meeting.
 
Networking: There are people from all over the world at the Midyear whose passions are similar to yours. Take the time to get to know them and ask questions about things you have in common. I have frequently approached speakers to learn more about how I can use their insights to improve my organization. Many times, this has led to further professional interactions and collaboration.
 
Think big: If I hear about something at the Midyear that interests me or that I would like more experience with, I take the time to ask about how I can get involved. Sometimes nothing happens, but I have been successful more times than not. I am certain that I have had many more opportunities because I have made inquiries and have not been timid.
 
Be professional: While I tell my students and residents to be professional at all times, I also heed that advice myself. I see people from the meeting at different and unexpected locations, and they tell me where else they have seen me. I sometimes wonder what would happen if I had been doing something embarrassing when they saw me. I try to be professional at all times so that I do not have to be concerned about my image.
 
Don’t neglect the exhibits: I thoroughly enjoy the exhibits. I know a lot of people who avoid them, mostly because they prefer not to engage with industry. I take the opposite approach. I particularly like to talk to representatives from the smaller companies that are around the periphery of the exhibition hall. They often have the most innovative products that have little market share and tend to be looking for partners. I use these opportunities to gauge where technology will be going and to meet the entrepreneurs who are developing it. I also like to review all the different products available in a given category, which allows me to compare them directly and to gather information should my organization choose to invest in new equipment or applications.
 
Be sure to catch the opening session: I am amazed at how many people miss the opening session. Not only are the speakers top-notch, but it gives you a window into what your association and its members are doing for you. I usually leave the session inspired by the message and armed with new tactical information to help improve my institution and better serve our patients.
 
This is how I approach ASHP Midyear, and I will be following these principles this week in Orlando. I would also appreciate your sharing any tips you have for making the most of the Midyear.
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