I was recently at the National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC) 27th annual conference in Las Vegas. This is a multidisciplinary conference that provides education to physicians, administrators, technologists, and navigators. It is a well-attended and well-rounded conference that offers a vast array of topics targeting each audience. It has abstracts, posters, vendors, and lectures while affording attendees the opportunity to meet and fellowship with many professionals.
With so much to offer at one conference, someone can become overwhelmed with all there is to see, do, and learn. With all this sensory overload, it can be difficult to make time to introduce yourself to others, especially if it is not in your nature to do so. There are so many well-seasoned breast professionals at a conference like this. It can even be a little intimidating.
Several years ago, I met a lady at a conference just like this event. Through conversation, we realized that the practices we managed were very similar in volume, patient demographics, and the technology offered. I also realized that this dear lady was more seasoned than I and she had a wealth of information I could benefit from. At that conference I didn’t just learn things listening to speakers in sessions. I gained one of the most useful things I have ever gained in my career: a mentor.
Years later, she is still my mentor and friend. We both attended this recent NCBC conference and served on a discussion panel together where we discussed best practices for running a breast center. Later that same day, I served on a navigation discussion panel with other navigators where we answered questions for the audience about navigation practices. Side note: I had a moment on that navigation discussion panel after when I was asked a question by the moderator where I totally blanked out and my face turned bright red! It was amusing to everyone but me!
Anyway, while at this conference, I made a point to talk to as many people as I could, answer as many questions as I could, and share as many best practices as I could. I also made sure to answer every follow-up email I received as a result of the conference. I also asked tons of questions, took notes, and couldn’t wait to share best practices learned at the conference with my organization. Fellowship with one of my mentors, who is also a navigator, as well as fellowship with other navigators and breast professionals was the most rewarding part of my conference experience.
The key takeaway from my story: Navigators must continue their education. Education may afford you the opportunity to fellowship with other navigators and professionals. When you have the opportunity, I strongly encourage you to pursue this fellowship. Share best practices. Ask each other questions. And if you have the opportunity, mentor someone, or allow yourself to be mentored. Or both! There is great reward in being mentored and mentoring others.