Plastic Surgery the Meeting may seem like a distant memory but a recap of #PSTM16 from a patient advocate standpoint summarizes the value of my first experience as an attendee. It was a fast and furious weekend for me at the Los Angeles Convention Center since I was only able to attend Friday through Monday. I scheduled classes to attend, met with plastic surgeons, and walked the vendor floor learning about products specific to breast reconstruction.
The Educational Programs
The first class I attended was one that focused on Cultural Competence in plastic surgery. I wanted to step outside the box of breast reconstruction a bit and understand the broader world of plastic surgery. It was a valuable instructional course. The discussion given by a variety of plastic surgeons at this session focused on recognizing and embracing cultural diversity in the workplace among plastic surgery co-workers as well as with patients. The presenters talked about age, sexuality, the very definition of what perceived beauty is, and how the patient’s experience with plastic surgery can be enhanced when cultural competence is embraced and understood.
I attended another session on the lengthy and involved process of getting your paper published for PRS|PRS Global Open, an on-line resource I get a wealth of valuable information from when Tweeting or sharing evidence based research to patients about plastics surgery and breast reconstruction. I truly appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears that go into getting these papers that are submitted and published.
Networking and Social Engagement
There were many social events that of course, were tons of fun, but had their definite benefits for me as a patient advocate. I met some notable leaders in the field of plastic surgery and particularly those who focus and support the practice, research, and social media community of breast reconstruction. It not only allowed me to thank them personally for their amazing work but I had the opportunity to engage in one on one conversation with them. I asked them questions about the challenges they face, what it’s like to be a plastic surgeon daily, and why they chose the specialty of breast reconstruction. I truly loved watching their eyes light up if I asked about their personal interest or their children. I saw the true human side of these individuals and it was simply refreshing!
The Vendor Floor
I arrived Friday and the vendor floor was not open yet. The set up was like watching a small village being built. There were fork lifts, massive displays, lighting, and a plethora of individuals constructing what was going to be an array of products that attendees could explore the following day, Saturday. I planned exactly which vendors I was going to visit by leaning on a couple of plastic surgeons for some advice. I knew I could get lost in the show and presentation of these big companies that spanned products from implants, to surgical scrubs, products for beauty enhancement, and a wide range of others. I wanted to report back to patients about products that added to the success of their breast reconstruction surgery. I wanted patients to be able to discuss this equipment and make inquiries to see if their own plastic surgeon used it during breast reconstruction.
One such vendor was NOVADAQ Technologies. They had a large and impressive display just as you walked into the vendor floor. I knew my plastic surgeon used their SPY Elite Fluorescence Imaging System to map my blood profusion during my DIEP flap surgery. It was and still is a fascinating piece of equipment to me. I was stoked because they brought the SPY machine to #PSTM16 and were demonstrating its use.
The company representatives invited me over to look. They placed a topical solution on the back of my hand so that the blood vessels would “light up” on the screen. When a patient is put to sleep in the OR, a fluorescent dye is injected into the veins of the patient to “light up” those all-important DIEP perforators (deep inferior epigastric perforators) that will be disconnected from the abdominal area and reconnected back to the breast area to make a warm, soft, new breast. I was fascinated to see it at work. They were even kind enough to snap some photos while I watched the blood flow in my hand happening in real time.
I asked all kinds of questions. It looks a bit like a robot on wheels. It has an imaging arm that can be placed over the torso of the patient and a monitor for the plastic surgeon to view the blood profusion. I wanted to know the exact set up when the plastic surgeon was in the room. Where was, the equipment placed during surgery in relationship to the gurney the patient was on? How long did it take to see the mapping after the fluorescent dye was injected? Where did the surgeon stand and how did he/she view the mapping of the blood vessels? From the look on my face in these photos, I felt a bit like a kid in a candy store! It was fascinating to see this at work knowing it was part of the process of my DIEP flap breast reconstruction.
The networking opportunities from #PSTM16 continue for me. Those I met in person continue to share amazing evidence based information with me daily on social media. The educational programs I attended opened my eyes and gave me a deeper understanding of the world of plastic surgery and the true dedication of some fine surgeons. Walking the vendor floor gave me hands on knowledge of the equipment used in breast reconstruction and allowed me to ask further questions about the function and value of the various tools used during surgery.
Final assessment of my Recap of #PSTM16?
I’m counting the days until #PSTM17 in Orlando for even greater learning opportunities for this breast reconstruction patient advocate!
Thanks, LA for the great memories that will continue to serve me well.