Attending Conferences: The Joy of Combining Work and Travel!
I sometimes feel the need to be careful when speaking about travelling internationally for work. I get asked ‘how was your holiday’ and blurt out ‘Brilliant! Em, I mean, it was for work really…’. Or maybe, ‘How was the conference?’ and I reply ‘Awesome, thanks! The weather was fab, I met loads of cool people...oh and I learnt a lot!’. After years of working in a budget-conscious public healthcare system, where the main perk of the job was the pure satisfaction you get from a day’s work, it takes a while to feel comfortable with this fantastic opportunity to travel for learning and for dissemination of my work with CATCH. Will people understand that I wasn't just kicking back in a sun lounger? Should I just go on about the various talks I went to? Can I still post 'holiday' selfies online?!
With that in mind, let me tell you about the 30th IEEE International Symposium on Computer-Based Medical Systems (CBMS) 2017! Last week, I visited Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city, for the CBMS 2017 conference, held in Aristotle University. Let me say now, Thessaloniki was a perfect location (and well worth a visit for anyone reading!) - the weather was beautiful, the locals were welcoming and the food was divine. As one tour guide said to me, 'the Greeks…we like the good life'.
The good life
It is said that if you rub Aristotle’s big toe, you can absorb some of his wisdom - it was worth a shot…
Day one of the conference kicked off with a fantastic special track session entitled Empowering Patients with Cancer through Connected Health, hosted by CATCH and iManage Cancer - an EU Horizon 2020 project focused on developing self-management platforms and serious gaming for cancer survivors (see here for more). This topic was covered again on the third morning. We got some great insights into:
The methodology behind developing a mobile app for breast cancer, c/o Fran, CATCH ESR
Neuro-muscular electrical stimulation in cancer, c/o Dom, CATCH ESR
Gamification in breast cancer mobile apps, c/o Guido, CHESS ESR
A diet and fitness intervention for breast cancer via mobile app, c/o Uni of Westminster
Design recommendations for building a mobile app for chronic disease management, c/o Medical Physics team, Aristotle University
Special track session on cancer and connected health, featuring CATCH ESRs and supervisors.
I was delighted and a little excited to be presenting a poster. Discussing my work was enjoyable - in particular, figuring out how to pitch the idea to delegates from different professional backgrounds. Many of the attendees were computer scientists, so there was a mutual appreciation for the need to speak in fairly basic terms about our research!
CATCH ESRs and our posters
Networking and mingling was one of the most enjoyable parts of CBMS 2017 for me. Conference delegates want to chat and share their work, and a well-organised event gives you lots of chances for this. Through poster sessions, coffee breaks and evening socials, I got chatting to people from all over the world and diverse professional fields. Twitter, WhatsApp and LinkedIn came in very handy for these sometimes-fleeting contacts, and allowed me to share photos, links, meeting points for dinner, and generally broaden my circle of friends who are interested in research, connected health and cancer. In the evening, we sat in restaurants overlooking the sea, learnt about each other’s countries and discussed our experiences in Thessaloniki.
So, did I manage to write about my recent work trip to Thessaloniki, without making it sound like I just had a wonderful time in Greece with a group of friends? Well, I’ve belatedly come to the conclusion that maybe work and fun don’t have to be exclusive! Without a doubt, we all put a lot of work into these trips, between writing papers, making posters and preparing presentations. When you touch down in your destination, this is the time to relax and enjoy yourself; time to take pride in the work you’ve done and speak about it to anyone who will listen. Go see the talks that strike a chord with you and ask as many questions as you like. Be sociable at breaks and during the evening, and join in any activities planned. Lastly, by all means, go exploring, go for a hike, have a drink by the sea - no one is expected to work 24/7!