Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jennifer Frank, MD: CME ... with baby

It seemed like a great idea at the time. You know, like a year in advance. I applied to present at the American Academy of Family Physicians Annual Conference. Between the time I applied and the time my presentation was accepted, I discovered (happily) that I was pregnant.

My new baby would be about 3.5 months at the time of the conference. I figured it was doable and set out to make the arrangements to attend (along with my husband and three older kids). As an academic physician, it is important to keep publishing and presenting, even when life is happening.

A few weeks into my maternity leave, I found myself madly putting the finishing touches on my presentation. In between diaper changes and breastfeeding sessions, I did pub med searches, printed up articles, and finessed my PowerPoint presentation. Shortly after returning to work, I practiced my presentation for colleagues, received their feedback and made the necessary changes. I uploaded my “finished” presentation the day before we were to fly to Boston. I was ready for the presentation. I wasn’t so sure, though, about traveling with four kids on a plane, staying in a hotel, and navigating to the conference every day with a baby in tow.
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We arrived in Boston on time and got settled into the hotel. Fortunately, I had realized, in a rare moment of sanity, that once I left work on Monday evening, I would not have a chance to practice my presentation again before I did it live. So, there was no pressure trying to fit in one more practice or rewrite before my session was scheduled. My wonderful husband took all four kids on the day of my presentation so that I could focus.

And, it went great. The room was packed with interested colleagues, my talk went well, and I had the chance to connect with other family physicians who shared my interest. My husband even walked our kids past the room where I was talking so they could see Mommy.

For the rest of the conference, I had a guest attending with me — my 3.5-month-old son. We attended CME lectures together (when he allowed it), strolled the convention center floor in search of gadgets for his sisters and brother, met up for lunch with friends from residency and past jobs, and spent a lot of time waiting for an opening in one of the very few restrooms with a diaper changing station.

I was apprehensive about bringing my little guy with me to a professional activity. As a working mom, I often feel pressure (mostly from myself) to keep personal and professional roles separate. This represented a definite merging of the two. However, it went remarkably well. I received mostly encouraging smiles and comments from my family physician colleagues at the conference. I was grateful for the CME I did manage to attend. I was proud of my husband and I for attempting something so challenging…and succeeding.

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