After the Congress: Ambassador Dr. Katerina Pavenski Highlights the 35th International Conference of the ISBT

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By Kathy Nicolay, Leaders Circle Manager

Dr. Katerina Pavenski is the Head of Transfusion Medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. She was the Chair of the Local Organizing Committee for the 35th International Congress of the ISBT – International Society of Blood Transfusion, which took place at our Centre June 2-6, 2018.

Experts who help bring international medical conventions to Toronto, like Dr. Pavenski, help sustain Toronto’s reputation as a world-class hub for medical expertise. Toronto is home to a thriving life sciences sector that employs more than 36,000 people in fields that include medical research, biotechnology and medical technology. The city is Canada’s largest centre of life sciences activity, with more than 1,400 clinical trials and $1 billion in research and development.

International conventions also provide a transfer of knowledge between experts, promote innovation, and leave a legacy of social and economic benefits for the city and region.

KN: Are you pleased with the level of success of the Congress?

KP: I think that the congress went very well. The program was excellent based on the feedback I got. We had 2400 attendees from 96 countries! Almost half of all countries in the world were represented, I still marvel at this figure.

KN: What do you think your delegates got out of the Congress? What was some of the feedback you heard about the Congress? About Toronto?

KP: I have heard that the program was excellent, in fact, people complained that there were so many good parallel sessions to attend they had difficulty choosing where to go. A few of us from the downtown hospitals ran tours of our transfusion labs, research centres. At St. Michael’s, we hosted folks from Taiwan and Japan. Toronto General Hospital hosted representatives from Uganda. This was very much appreciated. Beyond the congress, we had an epic party at Polson Pier. I had a lot of positive feedback, from the location (backdrop of the Toronto skyline) to music to food (we had food stations representing various neighbourhoods in Toronto). I had lots of compliments on the food – in the convention centre and also the nearby restaurants. Again, diversity and variety were the most common themes. People felt safe, accepted, welcomed.

KN: Are there some unique or “first time” stories that came out of your Congress? Highlights?

KP: The overall theme of the congress was the past, present and future of the field of transfusion. The year 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the first human to human transfusion. So we had quite a few talks on the history of transfusion. There were also talks about current achievements and challenges. For example, relentless human development is leading to climate change and contributing to emergence of insect-borne infections that have a significant impact on human health and safety of blood supply.

KN: Was there an education component for young Investigators in blood transfusion medicine? If so, how many young Investigators took part?

KP: ISBT has a number of ways to encourage young talent. For example, it holds an informal breakfast to bring together young investigators with established scientists and clinicians. ISBT also holds a special session where the six top scoring abstracts authored by young investigators are presented. There are also workshops on grant writing, how to design a trial, etc. And of course, to really encourage the young investigators, ISBT has an award for an investigator under 40 and who has made an important contribution to transfusion medicine. This year it went to Rick Kapur, who until recently was working at the research centre at St. Michael’s in Toronto.

KN: Were there any additional or special events involved or created during the Congress?  For instance: Were there any related societies hosting their meeting or event during ISBT?  Was there any awards ceremony or other event to celebrate those making a difference in the field of transfusion medicine?

KP: ISBT presents awards to developing countries for achievements in transfusion medicine and this year the award went to Department of Transfusion Medicine, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarth, India. The society gave out individual awards and these went to Peter Flanagan, Diana Teo and Pierre Robillard (a Canadian!). The ISBT journal Vox Sanguinis gave a prize for the best paper as well…So lots of awards!

KN: Any final comments you would like to share? 

KP: Organizing a congress is a lot of work but it is also extraordinarily rewarding. It gives the opportunity to showcase your work, your city, your country. You cannot do it alone and it helps if you have a winning team to support you!  My sincere thanks go out to the CSTM leadership (Gwen Clarke, Darlene Mueller and Ann Wilson, the past, present and future presidents respectively), ISBT (Judith and her amazing team), Tourism Toronto (Alice and Johanne), MTCC (Rahul and Barry), Gilles Delage (the Congress President), the local organizing committee and everyone who has made this a success.

Banner image courtesy of F Creative.

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