Monday, April 28, 2008

Patient Assistance Program Conference: Baltimore

I intended to post about this a long time ago, but I just recently got these pictures from a friend at the conference, so here I am posting about this a month late.

Around mid-March I attended a conference designed for pharmaceutical company reps, third-party vendors, and patient advocates - all stakeholders in the process of assisting patients with getting their medications as needed. If you don't already know, I work at a United Way agency that provides support services for cancer patients. I have been working at this agency for almost five years in various capacities. My current role as a Patient Advocate is quite multi-faceted, but since January I have been focusing on helping patients gain access to their medications.

This conference was an extremely exciting opportunity, especially since I received a scholarship to attend...otherwise there was no way my office was paying the $2000+ it would have cost for me to attend. Anyway, I hoped on a plane and headed to Baltimore to learn more about the inside world of Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs).

The first night included a social networking time for all the scholarship recipients (all patient advocates themselves). If you know me at all, you know this is NOT the type of atmosphere I am most comfortable in. Especially since it was called a "cocktail social"...and I don't drink "cocktails" and prefer not to go to "socials"! Anyway, I had to go, so I went. I was one of the last 5 or so to show up, so when I got there the remaining seats were few and far between, and I was not about to stand up while trying to juggle my Sprite, my plate of cocktail-type food, my purse, and all the conference information they had just handed me. Well I finally found an empty chair at a table of 4 women who looked at least somewhat close to my age, so I invited myself to join them. After about 5 minutes of conversation among themselves (awkward for me!), they finally asked my name and I joined in the on conversation. What I found out later is that these four ladies, although they acted like it from the conversation, did not already know one another either. They were just as nervous as of them just hid it by talking a lot!

So later, from a quite awkward and nerve-racking initial situation for me, came a friendship between the 4 of us for the three days of the conference. It was such a God-moment (well lots of them!) because what would have been three days of learning great new information by myself became three days of sharing information and stories about our work experiences. We sat together, ate meals together, talked during breaks, and went out on the town one night together! It was such a confirmation of God's presence in my life - all the exciting experiences that came out of me surrendering control of the situation and learning to enjoy getting to know new people from across the country.

There are so many more stories, but for now, here's some pictures of our fun together:
Me and Christina

Kim, Angie, & Nancie

The conference main room

Downtown Baltimore...we had dinner at that Hard Rock Cafe.

The coolest God story from this conference was my experiences with one of the ladies in particular, Nancie. She was quite the talker, so we got to know one another quickly. She has two children and a hubby, is a Christian, and just an all-around nice person!

Our flights were leaving around the same time, so we decided to travel to the airport together. Instead of the very expensive taxi ride that I took on the way there, we decided to use Baltimore's above-ground train, the Light Rail. The time between the moment we arrived at the Light Rail Station until the time I got on my plane was quite the (several!) experience! First, we missed the first train b/c we were standing on the other end of the platform than we needed to be. This turned out to not be a problem after all b/c it turned out that the first train was packed and the one we got on not even 3 minutes later was completely empty. The ride to the airport was uneventful (save our conversation), but once we got off the train and headed into the airport, Nancie realized she had forgotten her luggage on the train. After an enthusiastic sprint complete with yells of "don't let the train leave!", she retrieved her luggage and we were on our way into the airport. She needed to check in at the ticket counter, so I waited while she completed the transaction needed. As she was leaving the ticket counter, her bag was still open and her bag with her makeup in it fell out all over the floor. After recovering from that mishap, we stood together and talked for quite awhile before making our way to security. Well during this whole time I am keeping my eye on the time because I realize that her flight leaves about 30 minutes before mine and we still have to go through security. She, however, is in the middle of a discussion about how God is working in her life and how she is contemplating changing jobs, etc....important stuff! So I felt bad about interrupting her, but I finally did b/c I knew it was getting late and the line for security was long. In the security line, I got through just fine and was waiting for her, when she realized she couldn't find her ID. It was quite the frantic moment (well...minutes, not moment), until I asked her if she might have put it with her ticket, which she had, and so we were on our way again. By this time I am very concerned about her not making her flight, but in front of us are a couple with a little boy - the mother was probably 8 months pregnant and they were not from the U.S., so the did not understand the rule about no liquids. Somehow Nancie was able to get in front of them to get through security, and off she went to catch her plane. She waved goodbye and that was that.

Now if you've hung in through this entire story until now, you may be wondering what the big deal is and how God was working. Well, I believe God put me in Nancie's path for some very specific reasons during the entire conference. Her personality was strikingly like Chuck's, so that made it very easy for me to talk with her, despite my initial shyness. She was at the conference with a co-worker who ditched her the first night, so I was able to be a friend during a time when she could have been quite down and lonely. There are other things that I won't post here, but I just know that I was in her life on those three days for a reason. Isn't God cool?

Sometimes my introverted self forgets how important it is for us as Christians to be in community with one another. It is through shared experiences that we are able to be Christ to one another and to see Christ working in our lives. For all of my fellow introverts, let's choose to reach out a little more, take some risks, and live in community with others!

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