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SEPTEMBER 24-26, 2024
Austin Convention Center - Austin, Texas

The Leaflet

YOU + The Symposium = Better Futures

June 18, 2024

by Dr. Wayne Ruga 

The Symposium is a resource that supports you in being more effective in the work that interests you.  It is a catalytic cauldron, a crucible for forging the fusion of diverse elements to make better futures for everyone.  You are the passion that fuels this dynamic fusion.

The Symposium, importantly, is not what it may appear to be – although it might look like a conference, if you engage with it like an ordinary conference, its magic will elude you.

Yes – of course, it is a conference, but it is so much more.  Consider this assertion:  the Symposium is an entirely democratic community where you have the explicit liberty and freedom to speak your mind.  In fact, you are encouraged to speak your mind to share your unique perspective on how we can – all – be more effective in our quest to create the best possible healthcare facilities.  The Symposium is a place where your voice is valued.

How would you know that your unique voice is valued?  One of the many unique aspects of the Symposium is that relationship matters, human interaction matters, and someone you strike up a conversation with will listen to you – actively listen to you and genuinely care about what you say.

Jenabeth Ferguson, the Symposium Director, is always open and available to suggestions and feedback.  In fact, since the very first Symposium in 1987, there has been a volunteer Advisory Board representing the many diverse voices comprising the professions and industries the Symposium engages with.  This group is much like the US Congress – it is a formal mechanism representing all stakeholders in healthcare and design, actively seeking to bring current and emerging issues into the Symposium programs.

Think about it – the Symposium is not a membership organization – this is by design.  The first time someone attends, it is because they are hoping to receive returns that exceed their investment.  When they return the next time, it is because they know their returns have exceeded – and will exceed – their investment.  Loyalty is strictly a product of outcomes – if you don’t get what you came for, you won’t return.

The original design vision of the Symposium was for it to be a community.  It was never designed to be a conference.  In fact, this is exactly why it is named a symposium.  It is supposed to be a catalytic experience where we can all – as a cross section of like-minded stakeholders in health, healthcare, and design – share our resources, learn from each other’s perspectives, and collaborate in building a better world.

It only works when YOU do that.

Authentic sharing vitalizes the Symposium experience.  Sharing, not in the sense that – if I give you half of my sandwich, I have now diminished my ability to properly nourish myself.  Rather, in contrast, Symposium-style sharing means that the receiver is better off, and the giver is also better off, having not – in any way – being diminished by the sharing.


For example – if I share with you my interest in designing facilities that actively contribute to the reduction of the rate of medical non-adherence, and that also increase the rate that employees give of their discretionary effort – I lose nothing by this sharing, and it may excite you as much as it excites me, encouraging you to go on to become an expert in developing new approaches to design that enables unprecedented improvements to be made – – – we would all be better off, then, and neither of us would be diminished.

As a very practical matter, investing in attending the Symposium is costly – the costs of travel, accommodation, meals, and the registration fee can add up to a sizable sum.  What can you do to maximum the returns you receive on your investment?

Come prepared.  Give thought, in advance, to what you would most value taking home with you.  What are you interested in?  What resources are you looking for?  What is your own unique perspective, or resource, that you can share with others?  What is your passion?

Bring lots of business cards and make an active effort to come home with none left, and a pocket full of cards from people you’ve never met before.  Do not hang out only with people you already know – every time you sit down, sit next to someone you don’t know and introduce yourself.  Ask them where they are from and what they do – you’d be amazed how much you will learn AND how these simple exchanges can change lives.

The Symposium is designed to provide opportunities to continuously meet new people:  from the hosted Happy Hour, to the events in the Expo, the facility tours, the breaks, the concurrent session programs, the Keynotes, and the Awards Luncheon.  Also, if you are a product manufacturer, the Expo is a designed experience that maximizes the potential to meet new individuals with an interest in your products.

The various award programs can put the spotlight on you, becoming an Advisory Board member can engage you with a group that has built friendship spanning decades, writing a Leaflet article can serve as a platform for broadcasting your voice, giving a concurrent session program can open many new doors, and becoming a Symposium sponsor has promotional benefits that benefit you and your organization.

The equation is a simple one:  the more you invest of yourself, the greater the benefits you will receive.  There are a surprising number of individuals who have attended the Symposium, regularly, for decades.  The reason why is simple to understand: the benefits exceed the costs.

The Founder’s Award was first given in 2011, at the 24th annual Symposium.  It is an award that cannot be applied for and there is no nomination process.  It is given to individuals who have, over time, actively given of their own discretionary effort and demonstrated their  support of giving wings to the ideals of what the Symposium aspires to accomplish.

To date, 14 individuals – from every imaginable background, profession, and industry – have received this award and become distinguished Fellows, to their own surprise.  Voluntary community leadership has its costs – nevertheless, the investment of personal energy that produces a more flourishing community, and a better world for everyone, is a personal reward that extends beyond any, and all, financial consideration.

If there is ever any way that you feel the Symposium can better support you, please always feel welcome to discuss this with Jenabeth, an Advisory Board member, or myself.  I hope to see you in Austin, in September, at the 37th annual Symposium.


Wayne Ruga is the Founder of the Symposium and a Special Advisor to its management.  He can be reached at:  [email protected] .