As students, we are always hearing about different conferences that we can go to. Each one seems like a great opportunity, but with our busy schedules, it’s difficult to consider attending one, let alone all, of the meetings we hear about. With that said, the upcoming American Academy of Optometry (AAO) meeting in Anaheim, CA is a fantastic opportunity that you should attend. I went to Academy the last two years, and will definitely be attending (and possibly presenting) this year. Academy always offers so much to student attendees, and it’s one of my favorite meetings!
- LOTS of Information: The Academy meeting offers over 250 hours of continuing education lectures to choose from so whatever your interests are, there’s bound to be someone talking about them! And the information is always cutting-edge, so you’re learning stuff you wouldn’t be learning yet in school. This year, Malcolm Gladwell (one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people) is speaking about health care and ongoing research. He’s also going to host a panel about new products for the future, which should be intriguing!
- Student-Oriented Activities: The AAO wants more and more students to attend Academy, and they’ve set up some student-only activities to encourage us to go. There’s a welcome reception specifically for student attendees, and they even close the exhibit hall to anyone who’s not a student for a couple hours! It’s a great opportunity to pick up some freebies and network with exhibitors.
- Student Fellowship: One of the biggest draws for students attending Academy is the student fellowship. I earned my fellowship two years ago, and it definitely was worth it! It’s pretty easy to earn your student fellowship at the meeting – you just have to attend 4 hours of CE lectures, 2 hours of paper and poster presentations, and a few other meetings and talks. Earning your student fellowship is a great experience, and it comes with perks – not only do you get the extra distinction to add to your resume, but you also don’t have to pay the registration fee for the next year’s meeting! Academy 2017 is in Chicago, and it would definitely be nice to have an extra $50 to spend there.
- Networking: Last year, over 7,000 people attended Academy. Over 4,000 of those were optometrists and vision scientists, and about 1,400 were students. Students and professionals are mixed together for almost every event during the meeting, and networking is extremely easy to do. Not only can you chat with professionals before or between lectures, but each school also holds a reception, which makes it really easy to talk to your school’s alumni. Additionally, the AAO puts on a student networking luncheon, where students can talk with representatives from different residency programs. So if you’re interested in doing a residency, you should definitely check that out!
- Anaheim! I’ll be honest; half the reason I went to Academy last year was because it was in New Orleans. The location matters for these meetings, and they’ve picked another great one this year! Anaheim’s climate will be the perfect November getaway for those of us who attend schools in colder climates. Even though there are lots of events you can attend at the conference, there is plenty of time left to sightsee and enjoy the area (Disneyland and the beach are both super close to the convention center…you might as well take advantage)!
Academy 2016 will take place November 9-12 in Anaheim, California. Registration is open now!