This year I made it to CSM. Everything fell into place. New Orleans is 6 hours from Houston. My facility paid my registration. I found a cheap hotel room close to the convention center. Now that I'm back I'm still working on defining my perceptions and experiences. My attention span gradually decreased as the conference continued. By the last session, I felt like I wasn't retaining anything else. Good thing handouts were available.
The thing that struck me most was all the people. This was the largest CSM yet with attendance of more than 9,000 people. I saw name badges with addresses from all over the United States including individuals in military dress. Ribbons were available indicating section membership, delegates, speakers, presenters and certified specialists. I noticed many section members, a few speakers and presenters any only a few certified specialist ribbons. That's interesting. You almost have to be an APTA member to become a specialist but any PT, PTA or student can attend CSM. I wonder why.
Each section staged its own 3-day conference. A complete listing of educational opportunities and locations was available in the manual. Attendees were free to attend anything in which they had an interest. I never left the neuro conference. In fact I was disappointed I couldn't attend more because some of the lectures I was interested in were scheduled at the same time. Choosing was difficult because only a paragraph summary was provided. Not all the lectures were great but most were interesting. A few were disappointing; a topic for another blog.
The exhibit hall was amazing. I believe there were more than 600 vendors, employers and whatnot there. Each section had a booth. So did the APTA. One area was set aside for technology stuff. Another was set aside to purchase APTA-themed things. To say the hall was overwhelming is an understatement. I spoke with many nice people. I collected some samples and the obligatory bag of pens for back home. I was impressed by how many vendors took the time to talk to me even though I will probably never use their product. The majority were ortho, pediatric and employment companies.
For me, the highlights were getting to walk on a split-belt treadmill and being given an ankle brace to stabilize hemiplegic ankles by an ortho guy. He said he didn't quite understand why I was interested and gave me the brace. It was nice to have my neuro bend acknowledged. Compared to another vendor with a toe-up orthotic for plantar fasciitis who thought I was crazy, it was a nice feeling.
After all that I've written, I feel as though I've barely touched the surface of CSM. For 3 days, there is a unity of the profession. The focus was on knowledge, not debate. For those few days, direct access, dissent about the DPT and questions about PTA education and utilization didn't exist. Except for a few very rude students, everyone was pleasant, nice and went out of their way to help other attendees. Discussions were exchanges of ideas, not attempts to silence one side of an issue. When I contributed to a discussion, I felt as though I had everyone's attention.
Next year, CSM is in Chicago. That's a long flight from Houston to a very cold place this time of year. I don't think that is going to happen although a part of me will want to attend.