The secret of the American College of Rheumatology conventionI know, I know, there are many journalists that cover this very important convention. And yes, they do a great job writing about the new treatments, the upcoming research, and the who’s who in Rheumatology. I appreciate them all.

That said, yesterday was my first venture into the halls of The American College of Rheumatology convention. I drove down to San Diego expecting one thing, detailed information. I drove home with a far more important insight into what makes this convention special.

I did meet wonderful Rheumatologists. I did hear about new treatments, new combinations of treatments and what’s going on in research. And the big topic of conversation was the expensive drugs vs. the budget drugs, or as it is referred to by the doctors, The Biologics vs. Triple Therapy (the use of three disease modifying anti-rheumatology drugs.)

The Convention Center in San Diego is a beautiful, gigantic—you need a map to navigate it—meeting place. The south side of it looks over the San Diego harbor and yesterday a layer of dark gray rain clouds hovered over the ocean with the sun shining around them. But for me this day was only about sunshine.

I caught up with my friends at the American College of Rheumatology. I hung out at the booth of the Arthritis National Research Foundation. I connected with CreakyJoints and the Arthritis Foundation and saw many of my fellow advocates. I had coffee at the Amgen booth, I proudly heard my Doctor Kenneth Kalunian speak, and I talked and talked people’s ears off about my Christine’s Kids, all the standard convention protocol. And as a new member of the Board of Directors for the ANRF I helped host their Meet The Scientists cocktail party.

I left enthralled and exhausted for the hour plus drive home, recalling all the events of the day. And in doing so it hit me, the secret of the ACR convention. It’s a convention of HOPE. Yes, HOPE. I might not understand all the medical terminology, or the advanced equipment that makes my computer look like an etch-a-sketch, but I am super sensitive to feelings. And the feeling in the halls, the booths, and the gigantic convention theaters was HOPE. The interest of the passionate doctors to find cures and treatments for arthritis that results in hope for their patients.

A lot of the hope was in the form of clinical information. But the hope that overwhelmed me driving home was the amount of people that traveled to gather together in one place because they cared about us, their patients. They walked miles in the halls to see every exhibit, hear many speeches, view presentations, and have lunch and dinner with their colleagues to talk business and share information. Why? To share with their hospitals and offices at home. To share with their patients. To make a difference.

Wearing my patient hat to write this blog I could feel their caring, their concern and their dedication by their presence. This medical convention is not a vacation, it’s hard work. It’s important and dedicated work.

So tonight the convention doors will close. The booths will be broken down and stored for next year. Everyone will travel home. their heads filled to the brim with information. And just like parents who bring home gifts for their kids when they travel, they are bringing home gifts for their patients, their schools, and their research labs.

The real secret behind the ACR convention? The gift of hope.