Heartland Conference: Work hard, play hard

Sunday, June 18, 2006

WATERLOO, Iowa - Providers who attended The VGM Group's Heartland Conference here last week received generous helpings of education and entertainment to go along with their pulled pork.

The four-day conference, held June 12-15, offered attendees everything from sessions on avoiding fraud and abuse and determining working styles to a hog roast, a Hawaiian-themed gala and a bowling party.

In all, some 525 providers attended the conference. They were joined by more than 200 manufacturer representatives staffing more than 70 exhibitor booths.

Echoing numerous attendees, Mike Tracey of Bay Pharmacy said the sessions on competitive bidding and accreditation drove him to make the trip from Sturgeon Bay, Wis. So did the conference's smaller size, which paved the way for numerous one-on-one interactions with colleagues and speakers.

But Tracey had to admit, the fireworks display at the hog roast--which included the American flag in red, white and blue lights, set to the tune of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A"--was a pleasant surprise.

"It was the best fireworks I've ever seen, and they were over a cornfield in Iowa," he said. "Go figure."

The conference challenged attendees to earn up to 17 continuing education credits (CEUs) from six different accrediting bodies, including the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) and RESNA. For the first time, this year's conference also offered CEUs from the Iowa Board of Nursing.

In addition to getting up to speed on current issues and earning CEUs, attendees like Sunny Hall of Mobiltek Medical in Franklin, Ind., wanted to see firsthand all VGM has to offer. She and her husband, Jim Hall, got a good primer during a tour of VGM's campus.

"You can read a brochure, but this allowed us to see for ourselves," said Sunny Hall. "You don't want there to be services that you're not taking advantage of."

VGM's plans for future conferences include more of the same, said the company's president, Ron Bendell.

"We want to continue putting on, what we feel is, the best educational conference out there," he said.

But, as any attendee of this show or a past show will tell you, surely there'll be an entertaining surprise or two.