Total immersion CPDFor a long time before graduation, I held a special interest in “exotics” – a term I take to include birds, amphibians, invertebrates, wild animals and rabbits, even though the latter should be included in the “small animal” speciality.

I even registered and studied for the CertZooMed before coming up hard against the requirement to gain experience “seeing practice” in unfamiliar surroundings (I was in general practice, so would need to spend time in zoos and wildlife rehab for example), and the accompanying reluctance of my employers to allow time away to do this.

Another resistor to completing it was the unstructured (or virtually non-existent) support for those not lucky enough to work with someone who had gone through it before. That is where the new system is so much better than the old, and one I wish had been around “back in the day” – life could have turned out very much different.

I eschewed the usual CPD in this country because it simply was not at a level matching what I could do or wanted to do – it was pretty basic and geared towards exotic-phobic general vets, rather than those with a penchant for the more advanced stuff. So I turned towards the US and its conferences, in particular the International Conference on Exotics, held in Florida from the late 1990s and early 2000s.

It was four days of pretty intensive CPD, where the enthusiasm of the organisers and speakers came across in spades – despite the hours involved.

Breakfast learning: pancakes with your CPD? Image ©

Things kicked off at 7am with “breakfast” learning – you got to eat breakfast at a table hosted by a speaker on a topic you were interested in, and could discuss anything with him or her. And the Americans do “breakfast” very well – pancakes with maple syrup and ice cream being a favourite of mine.

Lectures and interactive sessions got going at about 8:30am and in some cases continued until 7:30pm, and wet labs and masterclasses were also running. An exhibition ran throughout, with people manning their stands all day. Then dinners and pub crawls took place after hours, until it all started again the following morning.

So, the conferences I attended in the US were long, but the immersion in the subject was total, and I made good friends who I saw year after year. Conferences I have attended in this country don’t have that same level of immersion, perhaps because they are simply too big (BSAVA) or are held in a convention centre rather than a large hotel. The day-long learning infiltrating that most sacred of personal times, the breakfast, helped to deepen the immersion.

That’s me, but what are your favourite conferences, conference features, and traditions, and why do you like them?

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