A student experience of the RSM Winter Conference 2018
Bleary eyed and not quite so bushy tailed, I dragged myself and my suitcase off to my first international conference. As a medical student most of my life involves desperately trying to avoid the ego-destroying questions that are all too frequent from consultants. Now, however, I was entering the lions’ den – as in less than 24 hours I would be giving a talk on a topic that many of the audience were working on longer than I had been alive! I had read the list of attendees to this conference and I was terrified at the thought of presenting to such an eminent cohort.
As I was arriving late to the conference, I did my best to sneak in the back of the room and cling desperately to the coattails of my mentor, Rik Bryan. Sadly, he was unwell but introduced me to some fantastic trainees/urology hot-shots-to-be who looked after me very well over the next few days. They took me to dinner where, in a fantastic move, social groups were mixed up and I found myself sat at a table with several consultants and more cutlery than I’ve ever seen. Both were daunting prospects! At dinner, a quiz took place and unfortunately none of my suggestions were correct, which I hope isn’t an indication for my final medical undergraduate exams.
After dinner I enjoyed drinks with several consultants who disproved the stereotype of the strict sergeant major-type of consultant surgeon. A quick search on my phone indicated I was among several professors and past presidents of the British Association of Urological Surgeons and of the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) Urology Section. What was incredible was how friendly they all were. They were very welcoming and asked genuine questions about how I was finding medicine and the conference instead of complex surgical questions.
I awoke at 6.30 am on Thursday 25th January, which was probably the earliest I’ve ever been awake on my birthday. The hour of my judgement approached and I soon found myself delivering my presentation on ‘Greenlight Photovaporisation in Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia’. Thankfully, the consultants took mercy on me and didn’t reduce me to a blubbering mess with their questions. In fact, they were rather nice and friendly and many spoke to me on my talk afterwards. During my very brief career as a medical student, I’ve often found that we students shy away from presentations to avoid embarrassment for not knowing things. I feel strongly compelled to say that if, like me, you suffer from this fear then please present to the Urology Section of the RSM, as they are a friendly bunch that allowed me to express my views and opinions on a matter in which they know a lot more.
The academic element of the conference was truly excellent. Hearing experts speak about complex urological topics helped to improve my understanding on concepts I had previously struggled with, and it was excellent to engage in both formal and informal discussions with other attendees. Indeed, I was lucky enough to have one-to-one teaching with consultants who are experts in the field, even if some of that teaching was in an airport after I only had three hours sleep! Furthermore, I felt honoured to have been there to discuss new novel strategies for common problems like benign prostatic hyperplasia or urological cancers. The best part of this conference was that the information was easy to understand and presented at a level where even a medical student knew what was going on!
So, what makes a successful conference to a student? It is almost irrelevant how pleasant the hotel was or how nice the cuisine was. What I think is significant is that I came away having felt I was welcome to deliver a talk to such a prestigious cohort, and that I got the opportunity to learn about some ground-breaking research on the international stage. Finally, I left grateful to the kindness, generosity and friendliness of all the attendees. I would strongly advise anyone considering a career in urology to attend this meeting and I sincerely hope that you have as great a time as I did.