The APTA national convention is one the largest meetings for the physical therapy profession, and having a poster accepted for presentation was quite the honor. Especially since it was my first one, and I hadn’t the foggiest notion how to go about it. The abstract was submitted months ago online through an electronic clearing-house, despite the fact that neither my committee chair nor graduate program director had seen it. Late nights, and early mornings for the past few weeks before work, I had spent many hours creating the poster. The twilight hours were spent summarizing my literature review and methodology using slash-and-burn techniques to refine text box contents to the barest minimum, stretching and compressing university logos, photo-shopping pictures from generous sponsors such as Paul Swift to create a seamless representation of 3 years of study in a 5’x 3’ non-glossy spread. Dennis generously helped me, late on a Sunday afternoon, with microscopic alignment and create a final proof in grey-scale printed out on his gigantic CAD drafting printer, so all I had to do on the Monday before the conference was to print it out, easy right? Of course not. No Kinco’s or Staples nearby, many of the local printing companies had limited supplies, limited paper types, limited formatting options, no matte paper, no 5’x3’, no no no no no. And now, I had three remaining days before Tampa 2012.
Having learned one solitary thing from the big print on the hitchikers guide to the galaxy, “DON’T PANIC”, I suppressed the urge to panic, and instead caved to my primitive responses to stress, giving in to a deep, deep sleep. The printing company that had designed and built my office sign assured me that they would be able to help, so I packed my bags, lit my mental candles, prayed to the god of stressed-out-first-time-conference-presenters, and went to bed. Leaving everything to the final minutes of the eleventh hour generally has me operating on the edges of my comfort zone, but here I was, driving to the airport, with minutes to spare, stopping to pick up the poster, review it with a fuzzy eyeball (woke with a bloody cornea…stress response anyone?), and drive to McArthur airport to meet Susan. Phew. The flight went well and the first day of presentations was insightful, with most of our interest in the lower extremity biomechanics presentations by Chris Powers and Tom Mc Poil. Heavyweights in the orthopedic and movement dysfunction world, it was heartening to see that our current clinical practices closely reflected the best practices advocated by these hard-hitting clinical researchers. We were giddy in the expo center, spending hundreds of thousands of wish-dollars on our dream equipment list, from the Alter-G gravity defying treadmill, to the Noraxon instrumented treadmill to the Biodex dynamic assessment platforms, and the Hydroworx under-water treadmill. Our movement analysis plans were taking firm shape as we tried out all the “toys”, zipping into the Alter G to run 8.0mpH at only 40% of normal body weight, then monitoring plantar pressure and gait patterns in the instrumented treadmills, then testing motor skills on the balance platforms, then going around again for more ideas, more plans, more pens, candy, ice-packs with sponsor logos. We connected the dots with the Edo and the gang from Kinetacore, and regaled them with stories of the wonderful responses we have had on our willing victims/volunteers with the intramuscular trigger point dry needling that we have recently begun practicing.
I hung my poster on the second day, Susan made sure I had wiped all the convention-pretzel salt off my mouth before she took my pictures by the poster, and got ready for the not-so-general-public. Between presentations, I hung proudly by it as I chatted to interested parties and explained aspects of the dissertation proposal to them. Some were cycling PT’s, some worked with cyclists, some interested in bikes and biomechanics, some were lost and wondering where the sweeties were.
It was 2 fast hours of talking my way around my literature base, my methodology and statistics, and it was good practice to do this in a relatively stress-free environment, with my peers. I guess it serves as some basic preparation for IRB defense, which is pending, and I imagine, will have me with much sweatier armpits than I had at APTA Tampa. I rolled up the poster, popped it back in the tube, and notched off another step on the way to the dissertation and Ph.D completion. At this point, I can look forward to being on the other side of the podium, presenting my own data, and convincing the world that I am not just a bike-nerd with a lot of fancy equipment, but have actually something interesting and valuable to offer my peers, in my overlapping PT and cycling/running/movement analysis worlds. Keep your eyes peeled!