Event Coverage

Heartland Conference: Wowing 'em in Waterloo

WATERLOO, Iowa — If you haven't yet attended The VGM Group's annual Heartland Conference, you're missing out. And not just on the homemade cookies at the registration desk.

The cookies are baked by VGM staffers, who take the event so much to heart that they serve on organizing committees throughout the year, then spend vacation time pitching in at the conference.

The conference itself, held at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center, is where industry ignorance meets its Waterloo. The number of participants — some 525 providers and more than 200 HME industry representatives — ensure many diverse networking opportunities. However, the conference itself feels uncommonly intimate and comfortable, no doubt a direct result of the efforts VGM makes to anticipate members' every need.

Topping that needs list is continuing education units — and there were plenty to be had from organizations such as NRRTS, RESNA and the University of Pittsburgh. For instance, attendees packed the room to hear Dr. Mark Schmeler, from the University of Pittsburgh's department of rehabilitation science and technology speak, on Documentation & Outcome of Wheeled Mobility & Seating. In his session, Schmeler called ATS's and service technicians "the eyes and ears of the continuum of care."

In addition to the rehab track, educational sessions were offered in the executive, operations, products & technology, regulatory, reimbursement, respiratory and sales & marketing fields.

But the event was hardly all work and no play. Heartland kicked off on June 12 with a literal bang, as fireworks punctuated a welcome reception that included a hog roast (the Heartland Golf Tournament was played earlier in the day). During the conference, attendees could sign up for tours of VGM headquarters or the nearby John Deere factory. The opening of the exhibit hall on the evening of June 13 featured a barbecue buffet. The Hawaiian-themed Heartland Gala took place the next night, with a bowling party completing the festivities on Thursday, June 15.

With this year's conference behind them, VGM is already looking forward to its sixth annual Heartland, scheduled for June 11-14, 2007. Stop by the VGM/U.S. Rehab booth (# 1941) at Medtrade in Atlanta for more details.

Getting to Heartland

Getting to VGM's Heartland Conference is not like landing at Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta… and that's a good thing.

Waterloo, Iowa — home to The VGM Group and its annual Heartland Conference — has its own regional airport. However, Cedar Rapids Airport isn't a bad alternative. It's calm and friendly, even at rush hour, and has a larger number of carriers flying in and out.

Cedar Rapids Airport is 60-plus miles from Waterloo, but it's a straightforward shot down I-380. The journey is an extended postcard of blue skies, green hills dotted with red barns and the occasional cow and calf. Even at 5 p.m., roads were stress free.

Part of the lack of stress is VGM's attention to detail beforehand. They e-mailed event reminders with Web links: Click here to recall which classes you've signed up for. Click here for driving directions to Waterloo. Click here for event schedules. And don't forget to pick up your bag of cookies: Baked 'em ourselves.

It's hospitality — and education — worth traveling for.

This article originally appeared in the August 2006 issue of Mobility Management.

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