Thanks to the generosity of the AAHPM’s “Research Scholars Program,” I had the opportunity to attend last week’s annual Kathleen M. Foley Research Retreat of the National Palliative Care Research Center (NPCRC, www.npcrc.org). Each year this retreat brings together nearly one-hundred senior researchers, junior faculty, and trainees alike, in an environment built to encourage mentoring, collaboration, and networking within our growing field. Attendees include those who have received funding from the NPCRC, their mentors, and selected national leaders. The event clearly stands out as a manifestation of the NPCRC’s mission: to establish priorities for palliative care research and to develop a new generation of researchers in palliative medicine.
Several trusted mentors had previously told me that this is, hands down, THE best conference in our field, so my expectations were rather high even before arriving in beautiful Park City, Utah. Indeed, the surroundings were gorgeous, but my expectations were exceeded; it was actually the meeting experience itself that provided the most amazement and inspiration that week! Everywhere I looked I saw another giant in the field, yet everyone was interacting informally and collegially, talking about research project ideas, struggles with grant-writing and funding, issues in career-planning, and important areas of inquiry for the future.
I vividly remember the experience of attending my first AAHPM Annual Assembly, especially the remarkably empowering and exciting feeling of being surrounded by over 2,000 people who are similarly passionate about our field. The Foley Retreat engendered similar feelings for me, but did so in an even more personal way by nature of its smaller footprint and more interactive design. I made several new connections during the conference, re-connected with a few old friends, and gained new insights about the right path for me in the near future as I ponder difficult decisions about research and job opportunities for July. I cannot thank the Academy enough for the support to attend this remarkable event, and the NPCRC for the opportunity to take part in the remarkable 2-day program. In many ways, the experience was transformative!
I sincerely hope to be able to participate in this remarkable event again in the near future.
Thomas W. LeBlanc, M.D, M.A.
Fellow, Medical Oncology and Palliative Medicine