Value of Professional Conferences: Reflections on MLA

May 15, 2013 at 7:08 pm | Posted in Professional Development | 1 Comment

The 2013 MLA conference offered me a great learning experience. I could not attend the full meeting due to my institution’s tight budget and other commitments.  However, thanks to the NAHSL Professional Development Award, I was able to stay an extra night, which made a huge difference in my efforts to take full advantage of this “One Health, Information in an Independent World.” The extended stay greatly enriched my networking activities and allowed me to connect with a group of international medical library professionals and leaders.

In this digital age, attending professional conferences is, in my opinion, still as important to our professional development as ever. For one thing, “conferences offer much more than education,” as Dahring[1], a healthcare professional, rightly pointed out. The professional conferences are widely considered as a “dominant feature of the academic, professional, and social life of all health-related disciplines,” according to Dr. Ioannidis[2]. Such meetings help to “disseminate and advance research, train, educate, and set evidence-based policy” for our profession. Although their intrinsic values have been under scrutiny recently, many professionals argue that “conference attendees will make contacts that they would not be able to make through other means such as social networking.[3]” Others also concurred that the enrichment from face-to-face networking is invaluable. That is exactly the case in my situation.

Recently, I won a Fulbright Scholar award and will be teaching in China for a whole semester in 2013-2014. As a Fulbright Scholar, I will not only teach courses on medical information management in the host university, but actively participate in the “Fulbright Guest Lecture Program” where Fulbright Scholars make guest speaking engagements at institutions throughout the host country. During their scholarship tenure, lecturers are expected to proactively solicit university invitations. The MLA conference provided a wonderful platform for me to get an early start connecting with many international counterparts. I was able to meet quite a few medical library directors, researchers, and professors from China, setting the foundation for further collaboration. The connections established during the conference are a very valuable source for my professional network. The returns on such an investment will be huge.  I thank NAHL heartedly for making this possible. I plan to share my Fulbright experiences with my NAHSL/MLA colleagues while in China and upon my return.

Hongjie Wang
Lyman Maynard Stowe Medical Library

1.         Dahring, R., Conferences offer much more than education. Adv NPs PAs, 2012. 3(11): p. 17.

2.         Ioannidis, J.P., Are medical conferences useful? And for whom? JAMA, 2012. 307(12): p. 1257-8.

3.         Cumberworth, A., J. Cumberworth, and S. Sharp, Usefulness of medical conferences. JAMA, 2012. 308(1): p. 31; author reply 32-3.


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  1. Congratulations, Hongjie!! That is wonderful news. Good luck in China teaching. That sounds like a great experience for you. I can’t wait to hear more from you. Sue

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