Heather Howell has gotten pretty good at making the most out of SHM’s annual meeting. It’s not that she has a system for wending through scores of educational offerings, a knack for interpersonal networking or award-winning research.
It’s that she’s the spouse of former SHM President Eric Howell, MD, MHM, and a long-time annual meeting attendee with her husband.
“It’s very enjoyable, because I do things that I would never be doing if I didn’t go with Eric,” said Mrs. Howell, who lives in Annapolis, Md., and has attended more than 10 SHM annual meetings. “Usually (on) our spring breaks, we go sailing and do family-oriented things. So to be able to go to these towns and do grown-up types of things is really fun.”
Welcome to HM17, family style. While thousands of hospitalists, nonphysician practitioners, and other attendees swarm the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino for a four-day crash course on all things hospital medicine, thousands more family members tag along. Husbands and wives, like Mrs. Howell, and, in years past, children like the Howells’ 14-year-old son Mason and 12-year-old daughter Anna. The kids aren’t traveling this year, which is tip No. 1.
“It gets harder as they’re older to drag them to San Diego or Vegas in the middle of a school year, which is when [the annual meeting] is usually held,” said Mrs. Howell, whose day job is as a real estate agent.
Tip No. 2? Make friends the first time around. Maybe it’s with spouses of other physicians from your significant other’s practice. Or maybe it’s with your spouse’s old friends from past jobs. For Mrs. Howell, it’s SHM staff and the families of board members her husband has worked with for years.
“I’ve been doing it for so long that I’ve met a lot of the other [spouses] that do go,” she said. “Usually, if Eric is in meetings all day, I will connect with some of the other spouses and we will go on excursions that are in that town. There is usually so much going on.”
Las Vegas is certainly no exception. In fact, SHM has a dedicated web page recommending family activities. Recommendations include hanging out at the 11-acre Mandalay Beach, which encompasses 2,700 tons of sand, three pools and a lazy river. There’s also the popular Shark Reef Aquarium, a 1.6 million-gallon saltwater habitat with some 2,000 creatures.
Mrs. Howell says excursions further afield could include Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which lies a 25-minute drive from the convention, or the Grand Canyon, which is about two hours east. But planning too much, especially with children, can become a challenge.
“When I arrive, there always seems to be a group of people that are going to do things,” Mrs. Howell said. “It’s very easy to hook up with the other spouses that aren’t involved in the meeting. We always tend to find each other.”