Monday, April 27, 2009

The primacy of people and places

a1 The conference has ended: the closing dinner was held last night and the good-bye toasts ran into the wee hours.  ISCE is a unique event: 100 academic researchers, physicians, and industry scientists meet yearly for three days of formal presentations and informal discussions about cardiac disease and electrocardiology.  Sessions start at 8 and run all morning, followed by “ad hoc” sessions in the afternoon, then more lectures through the evening.

It sounds brutal, and it can be an intense and challenging meeting, filled with solid presentations, vigorous group discussions, and lots of people to meet. But I wouldn’t miss a moment.  These are my peers, mentors, and students from around the globe, my counterparts in companies, and my collaborators from studies.

It’s a challenging audience for making a presentation, though.  Most published papers of consequence were written by someone in the room, and, while I’m presenting to friends, there is always a highwire sense that I’ll get called out for any inaccuracy.  This year, I set my technical presentation into the context of James Whistler’s paintings, Trying to give it some variety and interest.  Learning from my mistake at Cambridge in January, I made sure that I rehearsed this one front to back repeatedly intimately familiar with every slide.  As a result, the talk went smoothly, it was well received, and I had good questions in the discussion.  Lesson learned.

The entire three-day conference also highlighted for me, again, the growing importance of people and places in my life.

As my expatriate assignment comes towards a close, I’ve wrestled with what the next stage of life should look like.  The Netherlands has become home to me over the past few years; I love the balance in life and the opportunities for travel and culture.  For the first time in my life, place seems to trump the pursuit of promotion.  I also value the professional relationships that I’ve had over the years; I’d happily continue working with these colleagues to look for new and better diagnostics for out of hospital resuscitative emergencies.

a2 Two weeks ago, the corporate parent offered everyone voluntary separation ahead of an upcoming reduction in the number of employees.  I looked at the past and future, what mattered and didn’t, and applied for the program.  Although discussions continue, there is now the distinct possibility that we could part ways in the coming months.

It would be a huge change after 20+ years, but I feel like it’s time to pause, take stock, and perhaps reset my life after some time to sort things through.  I expect to be in the Netherlands through the summer, and will update here as I find my way forward.

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