AAHA Con 2023: Everyone’s invited to San Diego
When I was growing up, my father always said, “You haven’t truly lived until your dinner gets interrupted by zombies.”
OK, he never said that, but he might have if he had been with me the night my dinner plans actually got interrupted by zombies. Five hundred, in fact, give or take a few. It was a balmy July night in San Diego, the appetizers had just arrived, and before we got to the main course the street was overflowing with lurching, gargling, green zombies boiling down Fifth Avenue in honor of Comic-Con.
We San Diegans are extremely proud of Comic-Con, which reliably each year tops itself as the wildest week in America’s Finest City. From the second the virtual waiting room opens for a coveted badge to the moment the last Hello Kitty Stormtrooper cosplayer is ushered off the show floor, the air crackles with a different kind of energy: that of people who share a common love of the popular arts and aren’t afraid to show it.
So, when we here at AAHA evaluated our longstanding annual conference and thought about what sort of vibe we wanted to bring to our September event in San Diego, the answer seemed obvious to me: AAHA Con, of course. Because there’s no group of veterinary team members more enthusiastic about the profession than the group who joins us every year.
It’s been a multiyear journey to rebuild an event as big as an 800-person conference, and it hasn’t always been easy, but we couldn’t be more excited about what we’ve got in store for 2023. Our goal was to level up what we do for the show, just as the attendees work to level up what they do back at home once they leave with a head full of practical nuggets, new ideas, and maybe even a few new friends on their contact list.
AAHA Con: Programming
At the end of the day, the success or failure of a veterinary conference relies on whether or not it is able to deliver relevant continuing education to the attendees, so our programming has always been front and center to everything we have planned.
With three full days of programming and a minimum of four tracks running each day, we embraced AAHA’s 2023 theme “Year of the Team” with a full roster of medical and nonmedical lectures, including names like Caitlin DeWilde, Courtney Campbell, and Cody Creelman—and that’s just the Cs. We’re bringing in stress researcher Rebecca Heiss for a keynote talk about how to game your own neurological wiring to make stress work for you. Seriously, I can’t wait.
If you are wondering what planning a show looks like, it’s this: a desk and three walls covered in Post-its. My office looks like this for five months out of the year. As the months go by and we get closer to the show, the Sharpies run out of ink and the writing gets fainter and fainter, but by then, we’ve usually finalized all the speakers and are ready to go.
The AAHA learning team speaks directly with each and every speaker to ensure we have an engaging mix of topics and styles. We’re passionate about curating the sort of show we’re excited about—and we hope our attendees feel the same.
AAHA Con: The event
Programming aside, there’s a whole lot more that goes into the experience than just the lectures—it’s the people sitting next to you, and the events going on once the last mic is shut off. We know that for many of the incredibly hardworking people who come to AAHA Con, this isn’t just a CE event but an opportunity to take downtime, so we’ve picked a city it’s easy to want to stay a little longer in.
For the people who like the structure of planned events, we’ve got dine-arounds, and for those who like to explore, we’ve got the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, and evening paranormal investigations of America’s Most Haunted House. (I’m in if you are.)
We’re still a ways away from scheduling a downtown zombie walk, but we do want to bring the excitement of something new around the corner from the moment you arrive to the time you sadly call an Uber for the 10-minute ride to the airport. What might we be planning, exactly? Guess you’ll have to come and see for yourself.
It might seem unusual to have a personal invitation to a conference come from AAHA’s chief medical officer, but this show is very personal to me. After 20 years in the profession, a pandemic, and one of the most challenging times to be in the field, I want each and every person out there considering the show to know a few things: AAHA member or not, no matter what your role is on the team, no matter how you show up in the world, you’re welcome at our superfan convention.
Get super early bird pricing for AAHA Con (September 20–23, 2023) when you sign up before June 15.
Reserve your spot and start planning your San Diego trip at aaha.org/aahacon.
Before becoming AAHA’s chief medical officer, Jessica Vogelsang, DVM, was a small animal practitioner as well as a pioneer of veterinary blogging and social media marketing. She is the author of the bestselling memoir All Dogs Go to Kevin.
Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors.