Congress Wrap-Up: The Member Perspective

 Published: October 12, 2017

By: Heather Willden


AARC Congress 2017 Opening Ceremony audience
AARC Congress 2017 brought together a variety of individuals from the respiratory care profession. They spent the week learning, sharing ideas and feeling inspired.

The AARC Congress 2017 made lasting experiences for all members who attended. From networking to engaging lectures, members left Indianapolis with great tools to apply in their daily career, as well as new skills and perspectives to mold their future. We asked members to share their insight, and here’s what they had to say.

Paving the Career Path

Alicia Thomas and Andi Gann Missouri, student liaisons at HOD
Andi Gann (left) and Alicia Thomas (right) of Missouri took part in Congress 2017 as student liaisons for the House of Delegates.

“My experience at the 2017 AARC Congress was an amazing one! This is the second year in a row that I have been able to attend and this year did not disappoint,” said Joey Ariale Jr., RRT from South Carolina. “I have been looking to go in the direction of neonatal care and there were many excellent talks on this topic. I am passionate about learning and those talks are the perfect avenue for doing so.”

“The biggest takeaway was on COPD patients. A goal was to learn how to create a COPD program,” said Manya Kanavalov, MPH, RRT of Oregon. “I plan to use the information and materials I gathered to help my community with an impressive COPD program.”

Theresa Fountain, RRT of Michigan explained that she had been feeling slightly burnt out from her 26-career in respiratory care and was even thinking this would probably be her last Congress.
That feeling quickly changed once she arrived.

“The AARC Congress 2017 in Indy was full of excitement and rejuvenation,” Fountain said. “What a change of attitude and direction after spending four full days in Indy with the people who get it.” Fountain continued to explain her enjoyment in being at Congress where there is a passion for the culture of Respiratory Therapy, and that it’s her chance to talk respiratory with a variety of new colleagues.

Making Connections

Joey Ariale Jr., RRT (left) and Mandy De Vries (right), both of South Carolina, volunteered together at AARC Congress 2017.
Joey Ariale Jr., RRT (left) and Mandy De Vries (right), both of South Carolina, volunteered together at AARC Congress 2017.

“What I enjoyed most was getting to meet and network with people on a national level,” Ariale said. “It is reinvigorating to meet up with those people and see what they have been working hard on all year to help push the profession forward. It inspires me to keep fighting knowing that there is a large group of very passionate people all striving for the same goal of advancing Respiratory Care. The friendships you make at Congress allow a large network of collaboration. I plan to reach out to several of the people I met at Congress throughout the year to work on future projects.”

“Congress and the HOD was an amazing experience, I learned a lot and it was refreshing to see how passionate most of the delegates are about the profession,” said Andi Gann, a student member from Missouri. She also explained that the networking opportunities, as well as the sputum bowl, were her two most enjoyable Congress experiences this year. In fact, she’s ready for more states to take part in the competition, bringing more teams to the bowl. “I feel like it would bring more networking and relationships between the states and could possibly form partnerships between hospitals and programs that didn’t exist before.”

According to Kanavalov, making connections is what she enjoyed most about Congress 2017.

“I would have to say the connections I made with the other attendees left a great impression on me. The Indiana Society of Respiratory Care is so engaging,” Kanavalov said.
In addition to connections with colleagues, Congress offers members a chance to hear from a variety of guest speakers who directly resonate with the audience, connecting with them as they share their experience.

“One moment that really touched my heart was Miss Claire Wineland, the keynote speaker. It is not often that we hear the perspective from a patient’s point of view,” Fountain said. “How humbling and heartfelt her story was. I take pride in being a Respiratory Therapist and, after hearing her story, I will say it with love, honor and more pride: I AM A RESPIRATORY THERAPIST.”

Getting Involved

Manya Kanavalov (right) and colleagues stop for a photo op at Congress 2017
Manya Kanavalov (far right) and colleagues stop for a photo op at Congress 2017.

“I volunteered again this year and the process was even more streamlined than last year. So a big thank you goes out to all who work behind the scenes to create a great experience for all of the attendees,” Ariale said.

Attending and being part of Congress helped Gann see the benefit for continued involvement in AARC.

“My biggest takeaway was about how much of a bigger picture that there is outside of the hospitals and classrooms and that there needs to be more people involved in the AARC—more than just having a membership,” Gann said.

Mark your calendars for Congress 2018, Dec. 4 – 7 in Las Vegas, NV. See you there!

Email with questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Heather Willden

Heather Willden is the Director of Governance and Strategic Initiatives for the AARC where she works with state affiliates as the HOD liaison. She also manages DEI efforts and strategic initiatives. Connect with her about these topics by email, AARConnect or LinkedIn. When she's not working, you can find her podcasting with her husband, exploring new hiking trails, photographing, and spending time with her family.

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