This conference bore Rebecca’s unmistakable signature. It was thoroughly planned down to the smallest details, and was first class all the way.
VENUE: The venerable Safety Harbor Spa turned out to be a great choice. The spa is located on the same springs that the Spanish explorer, Hernando DeSoto thought was the fountain of youth of Ponce de Leon. The secluded beach location allowed for a nice jog along the beach, a swim in the lap pool, a shopping expedition to the nearby shops, a relaxing massage, or a vigorous work-out in the well-equipped gym. It is definitely “old Florida,” like the hotel Don Cesar. One can imagine the pilgrimage of famous people who have “taken the waters” there over the years. As a bonus, the bed was actually very comfortable.
FOOD: To a food junkie and amateur chef, food always takes center stage, and this food junkie was not disappointed. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner – all served buffet style – were of unusually high quality.
MEETING ROOMS: The newly remodeled conference center was first rate.
SPEAKERS: As so much has already been said, there is very little to add. I’m still not sure why I was invited(but certainly happy to be). As Dr. Brown said, my slides were “ultra-geeky,” and therefore unfit for a “PG” rating. However, I dutifully fulfilled my role as “Guest,” and did my level best not to embarrass Rebecca. Sandra Brown demonstrated her command of the material and her academic background. In other words, she knows what she is talking about and how to get her subject across with clarity and humor. Dr. Hector’s style was very accessible – down-to-earth is a term that comes to mind. Mary Kenny Badami showed everybody why she is a great Professor of Communications. Ellen Anmuth really impressed me with her articulation and empathy, since she also suffers from dry eye. Cathy Bishop-Clark, another professor, provided the first-person testimony to the toll that dry eye exacts from its victims. The presence of Frank Holly underscored the scientific credibility of the event. I also came across some interesting products among the exhibits.
I thought it might be interesting to give a synopsis of my perception of the event, especially from my perspective of looking out at the attendees. I was impressed by the number of people who had traveled quite a distance from places like the East Coast and the Midwest. I was also struck by the tragedy of seeing so many young people with this affliction. I felt especially sad for those who had hoped to discover “the solution” for their dry eye, and could not help but notice the disappointment of some of them when it became evident that science had not yet delivered it. I observed one young woman taking copious and detailed notes of everything, including our conversations at dinner and breakfast. Another young man was conspicuous with his constant use of irrigating solution, as though he was trying vainly to put out a fire in his eyes. Several hid their eyes behind dark lenses the entire weekend, but their pain was not so easily hidden.
Clearly, we have our work cut out for us. However, healing comes on many different levels, and it is on those “other” levels that the conference was an overwhelming success. It was the participants – the people who shared their stories, their pain, and more importantly their triumphs over pain -- who really made this a truly enriching event. I think that Safety Harbor was and is a good place to begin the process of healing.