Monday, March 18, 2013


I promised that I would write about the All India Occupational Therapy Association (AIOTA) annual conference that I was privileged to attend earlier this month. This is the fulfillment of that promise. Hopefully I haven’t forgotten all that transpired that week.

This is where is happened. It looks a little bit more "dungeon-like" in this photo than it did in real life... :) 
The sign above the side street heading to the conference center. In front are the students (and some staff) from CMC who joined the conference. 
I was there. Golden Jubilee year and all! Holla!
As with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) annual conferences that I have attended in the States, the most important piece I gleaned was the networking. I would like to write this without comparing the AIOTA and AOTA conferences, but since I don’t think that is possible, I’m going to get all the comparisons out at the beginning here.

          1.)    Given the distance that OT’s in India would have to travel, the ease of travel (or lack thereof), and the decreased number of OT’s in India, the annual conference here was much smaller than what I’ve attended in the US. If I had to guess, I’d say that it was about one tenth of the size of the AOTA conference. Also, three-quarters of the attendees were students.

          2.)    At the AOTA conference there are many lecture sessions that are occurring simultaneously and you choose which one you want to attend. Here there is one session and everyone attends. There are groups of research papers which are presented together (eight minutes for each presentation) followed by questions for the group of presenters. There are keynote speakers intermittently sprinkled throughout the three day experience.

This is a photo of one of the first slides shown at the conference. Those of us taught by The Man will understand the significance of this photo. For those who were not taught by him, let me explain. This is a graphic of the Research Pyramid developed by my professor George Tomlin (see cited source at bottom of slide) and his partner in crime, Bernhard Borgetto. Very proud moment for me to see this work of art flash before my eyes.
          3.)    Breakfast, lunch, and dinner (for one night) are all served on location and come with registration at AIOTA. The food is served buffet style and is pretty darn good. I do wish that this was the case for AOTA; however, given the sheer volume of people in attendance I’m not sure this would ever be possible.

The breakfast coupons I found in my welcome kit upon registration. My tickets to culinary satisfaction while at the conference! 
CMC interns enjoying a meal in the "dining area."
Sometimes seating was hard to find, so we would eat our meals perched on anything horizontal and relatively clean. 
This is the view into the food area. 
          4.)    Cultural entertainment at AIOTA blows any sort of AOTA entertainment clean out of the water. Sorry AOTA, but you pretty much don’t even show up to the ballgame here. The evening of the last two nights is devoted to cultural entertainment. The students from all over India showcase their talents with dances, songs, and productions. There are both competitive and non-competitive categories. Two of CMC’s own competed in the cultural entertainment and took second prize in the song category! There are street plays performed on the second evening, which are skits directed by the students about the impact of occupational therapy in a variety of life situations. Epic.

Traditional dancer.
I believe she was a true Kerala traditional dancer... 
Doing it up right with stage fog and everything!
A group performance that brought folks to their feet. 
Divya (OT from CMC) took second place! I personally think she was robbed... 
          5.)    What is even more epic is the charged atmosphere during the award ceremony. AOTA also has an awards ceremony. Since we are making comparisons here: AOTA’s awards ceremony is to a tennis match as AIOTA’s awards ceremony is to a hockey game. Holy Toledo. When the university names are read aloud announcing the student winners, you better tie down everything you hold dear because all hell breaks loose. The noise level shoots well above 200 decibels (for reference, a 12-gauge shotgun is about 165 decibels), and it is possible that somewhere nearby there is activity on the Richter scale due to the stampede of students pounding the floor as they dance with enthusiasm and excitement. AOTA, you got nothing on AIOTA’s award ceremony.

          6.)    The AIOTA also organizes a model and poster contest for the students. At AOTA, there are poster sessions, which are good and educational. Here they pit university against university to create the best work of art depicting a chosen topic. I believe this year was occupational therapy and technology in defense, or something like that. The model contest also has the same theme, but students are challenged to create elaborate dioramas illustrating the topic. Very impressive. I’m continually impressed by the creative talent and vivacity the students here have. From choreographing dances, writing and directing street plays, to creating intricate models and eye-catching posters… they seem to have it all!

As I mentioned earlier, the best part of the conference (here and back in the US of A) is the networking and interacting with those of likeminded profession. For the OTs reading this, you know what I mean when I comment on how unique it is to attend a function where everyone “gets” occupational therapy and you don’t have to explain to people that, no your job is not to find work for people. It was also nice to see my compatriots from CMC realize this unique bond. One of the OTs I traveled with made the comment that it was really nice and encouraging knowing that she was not the only OT from the state of Kerala, though she felt like it at times.

I was able to network with a few from Australia and one from the US of A. I have now made a few good contacts and have been given unique encouragement and perspective on my time here. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to attend an international occupational therapy conference. I now am the proud owner of a certificate of attendance to slip into my Professional Development Portfolio. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Emily, great summary of key cross cultural aspects of the conference. On the cultural evening I slipped out to meet with sahaj marg group - thinking that I wouldn't be missing much. However, the students operate at a number of levels that we are not used to supporting. Of course we have elite sports people, and other extra-curricular skills - , but we don't have anything that brings our students together to the same extent. What was striking among these students was how they all gave it a go, and did it to a high level. How much time they must devote to the development of these skills!