These days, there are dozens of ways that people can access information: Webinars, podcasts, magazines like this one, and the Internet, just to name a few. But as easy as all of these types of programs are to access (you never even have to leave your desk chair!), nothing has yet replaced the vitality and energy of a conference. Conferences don't just share great new ideas and give you access to hundreds of innovative products, they create community. You don't just look at innovation, you get to touch it and feel it, and even pose questions to challenge it. You meet new people, see old friends and, for those few days, are a part of something alive and revitalizing and inspiring.

More than any other event out there today, the HEALTHCARE DESIGN.07 conference is a coming together of a diverse yet likeminded group of people who want to make a significant impact on our field. It draws more senior-level professionals than other similar conferences, yet has just as much to offer to those just starting out. Its educational program is supported by the collective brainpower of the The Center for Health Design and the American Institute of Architects Academy of Architecture for Health. Presentations are hand-selected from more than 250 proposals each year. The conference is not just about sitting and listening to the talking head at the podium, it is interactive adult education using both traditional programming and interactive seminars, discussion groups, workshops, and even tours of exemplary facilities (meaning you can go out and actually kick the tires!).

The HEALTHCARE DESIGN tradeshow has grown exponentially over the years to include every major manufacturer of product for the field, as well as dozens of smaller companies with innovative new products you might never have happened upon on your own.

Because of its link to HEALTHCARE DESIGN Magazine, the program is seasoned with a breadth of knowledge that is not just limited to once-a-year learning, but offers those cutting-edge ideas that come across the editors' desks every month. Add to that the conference follow-up sessions offered by the “Best of HEALTHCARE DESIGN” Webinar Series, and you can learn from the top presentations even if you missed them at the conference. You have a year-round learning opportunity.

But there is no substitute for being there. Listening, for example, to famed environmentalist William McDonough, FAIA, talk about his book Cradle to Cradle and about each of our responsibilities as inhabitants of this planet at one of the HEALTHCARE DESIGN.04 keynotes was inspirational. Hearing Robin Orr, MPH, a passionate healthcare consultant/patient advocate, speak of her own personal encounter with the healthcare system as a patient was a moving experience at HEALTHCARE DESIGN.06—I'm pretty sure there wasn't a dry eye in the room when she ended her talk.

With the addition of the American Institute for Architects Academy of Architecture for Health members and the unique programming that comes along with them, we will have an even more dynamic and vibrant crowd and educational content this November 2-6 than ever before. There will be diverse discussion groups available for more small-scale networking and learning and some unique new healthcare facilities on the tour program.

“Networking” is the key word here, describing in a nutshell the conference's unique value. My strongest memories of past conferences and greatest expectation for this year's conference arise from the energies generated when inspired people come together to talk about their professional passions. It is the best of all learning experiences. I hope to meet you there. HD

Debra J. Levin is President and CEO of The Center for Health Design, based in Concord, California.