'It's time to revolt a little bit'

Monday, January 10, 2011

NASHVILLE – This year’s International Seating Symposium (ISS) will be bigger and better, says Mark Schmeler, course director. The symposium, which will be held March 3-5 in Nashville, will feature more exhibit hall space and more sessions, a direct response, he says, to a growing demand for seating-specific education and a revolution brewing in the complex rehab industry. Here’s what Schmeler, a professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Services, had to say about what attendees can expect from this year’s symposium, including a big name closing speaker.

HME News: What’s new at ISS this year?

Mark Schmeler: It’s in a new location—Nashville instead of Orlando. We’re going to the Opryland Hotel in Nashville because they provided us with the best proposal, as far as cost, space and everything else. We’ve basically doubled the exhibit hall and it’s all under one roof. We have more than 100 exhibitors and more than 100 sessions.

HME: Give us a feel for what some of the sessions will cover.

Schmeler: They cover everything from pediatrics to geriatrics, manual chairs to power chairs, and a lot on outcome measures. Also, I would say, more than half of the speakers are relatively new. That was one of my focuses: to really give some new blood a chance, so there’s a nice mix. We’re going to do a fundamentals course, which will be a good review for people who are getting ready to take the exam for the seating and mobility specialist (SMS) certification. One cool thing we’re bringing in is a pre-conference workshop on how to set up a clinic. Of course, we have our usual session on funding and policy.

HME: What is driving ISS’s growth?

Schmeler: I think it has a lot to do with ISS being very focused. A lot of times, complex rehab gets diluted in other conferences. Also, I think the collaboration has grown really strong, especially in terms of encouraging new people to present. That has brought more people to the conference. They go back and tell a friend.

HME: Is there a theme to this year’s event?

Schmeler: It’s “Revolution Evolution,” because we’re going through another evolution. We’re always evolving as an industry, but I think we’re starting to recognize what we have to do to hit our maturity level. With all the pushback we’ve gotten, it’s time to revolt a little bit. I think this is our time when we revolt and we have our outcomes and measures, and our consumers to back us up. We need to be collective as a group and not so split up.

HME: Who should attend ISS?

Schmeler: Anybody and everybody that works with people who have significant disabilities and are using complex rehab. We’re also really trying to encourage more participation by consumers. Participation is key. We have all the technology and we know all this medical stuff, but at the end of the day, it’s really about that person in the chair, doing what they want to do, the way they want to do it.

HME: I noticed that this year’s closing speaker is Lee Woodruff, an author and contributing editor for ABC’s “Good Morning America.” She’s also the wife of Bob Woodruff, a TV journalist who was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Schmeler: She’s written two books that are fantastic (“The Perfectly Imperfect: A Life in Progress” and “In an Instant: A Family’s Journey of Love and Healing”). I think there’s a lot of take home there for clinicians and suppliers about the work we do. I read her books and then I heard her speak, and she happens to be a friend of the family, so I was lucky to get her.