My Experience at SAVMA Symposium 2019

I had the good fortune to be able to present some topics near and dear to my heart at the 2019 SAVMA Symposium held in Athens, GA in March.  I presented on Medical Error, was on a panel about Internships, and presented Preparing For and Securing an Internship. I wasn’t sure what would happen with each talk. Here’s what did happen:

Medical Error

My main goal with this talk is to get people to realize that error is an activity intrinsic to any human endeavor.  It is particularly problematic in highly complex, tightly coupled, and obscure systems, as happens in a biological entity like our patients.  Ultimately, if an error happens, focus on What Happened, How it Happened, Why it Happened, and What to Do to Prevent it from Happening Again. DO NOT focus on the WHO.  Errors happen because of systems, not because of people. We spend a lot of time focusing on the person engaged in the error, when we should be deconstructing the system which led to the error.

I think this talk was well-received.  I tend to get positive feedback about it because most people have not gotten this message before.  A few questions were asked about how to deal with the emotional consequences of being the one who made the error.  The room was about 25% full and everyone seemed engaged, which was heartening.

Internship Panel

I was a late addition to this group because someone else canceled.  I was honored to be invited and to participate. There were three faculty clinicians and one vet from the sponsor organization.  Unfortunately, I don’t think the moderator was prepared for a panel session. Once things opened, we sat awkwardly for a little while before I proposed, “Why don’t we give a brief background on each of us?”  I felt like I had to lead the panel with questions for us all to answer. This was kind of OK- I’ve been on many internship panels over the years. I just felt uncomfortable because I felt like I was controlling the panel, which was not my role as a participant.

The room was probably 40% full, and the audience seemed engaged.  They asked good questions and the other panel members were helpful.  One spoke a bit excessively, but they were young and this was probably their first panel.  Overall, I think the attendees benefited.

Preparing For and Securing an Internship

I was super excited to present this talk.  I had only just launched The Vetducator blog, although I’d been writing posts for a few months by this point.  I was feeling very enthusiastic to help vet students with their next step and spent a lot of time thinking about the most impactful things I could say.  I expected to have maybe 6-10 attendees and we would circle the chairs in the room and have a chit-chat about internships. Well, it didn’t turn out that way.

By the time I was scheduled to start, the room was 90% full and people kept trickling in until it was standing room only.  My interactive format was not conducive to a room of 50+ students, so I adapted on the fly. I encouraged questions and began going through my presentation.  By the time I hit 30 minutes in, I was only 25% done with the presentation due to the great questions I got. I flew through some slides to hit on some major points and allow time for Q&A at the end.  Everyone seems engaged and interested and enthusiastic to hear my perspective. It was an extremely supportive experience as my first outing as The Vetducator.

I was extremely impressed with the organization of the Symposium from the speaker’s point of view- everything was well laid out, I had clear instructions of when and where to go, and had a moderator present to introduce me and help with technology.  I hope the students had a similar experience. Based on the experience, I contacted the organizers for the 2020 Symposium at Cornell and have arranged to present several hours there, including some topics from The Vetducator. Hopefully, I saw you in Athens and will see you at Cornell!

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