Leaders Circle Case Study: How ISTH’s Toronto Congress raised the bar

How ISTH’s Toronto Congress raised the bar

“This congress was the perfect opportunity to unite the forces in Canada and invite the world, and this national gathering of strength will continue to manifest itself in grant proposals and in future research emanating from our country and city.” Leaders Circle Ambassador and Congress President Dr. Sam Schulman


In the summer of 2015, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre was host to the XXV Congress of the International Society of Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH) and the 61st Annual Scientific Standardization Committee (SSC) Meeting. The event was 8 years in the making; with support by the Leaders Circle, Ambassador Dr. Sam Schulman, Congress President and Director of Thrombosis Service at HHS-General Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, and his colleagues presented the winning bid in Geneva during the XXI ISTH Congress and 53rd Annual SSC Meeting in 2007. The 2015 Congress attracted more than more than 7,000 clinicians and scientists in life sciences and bio-technology, representing 109 countries at the Congress.

ISTH Headquarters reported that the Toronto Congress was by far their most successful ISTH Congress, and the event generated approximately $35 million in economic impact to the community.

Why it came to Toronto

It was 1981 when Toronto hosted the ISTH Congress for the first time, and in the decades that followed, Canada built a strong reputation as a top place in the world for clinical research in thrombosis; this ultimately served as the main reason for bringing the meeting back to the city in 2015. From a destination perspective: Toronto revealed itself as the desired host city for a variety of reasons: extraordinary congress and support facilities, ease of international travel, the vibrant cultural fabric of the city and Toronto’s standing as a world leader in health research and discovery.

As well, the strong bid team led by Leaders Circle Ambassador and Congress President Dr. Sam Schulman, Director of the Thrombosis Service at HHS-General Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario and the unprecedented support given by McMaster University also in Hamilton, helped to win this Congress for Toronto.

Congress objectives

Thrombosis is a critical disorder and it is the cause of the top three killers in the world: heart attacks, strokes, and pulmonary embolisms. It is therefore a hugely important task to try and reduce those events and to improve treatment, when they happen.

ISTH aimed to bring all front-line basic and clinical scientists in the field to exchange important data, as well as to teach trainees. A specific goal of the Congress was to bring in as many trainees as possible and ISTH awarded a large number of travel grants to young investigators and participants from developing countries.

An engaging event

It is commonplace for related societies to come together and meet while they are at the ISTH Congress. Approximately 30 other meetings related to the medical field of Thrombosis, Haemostasis and Vascular Biology, including related societies, board meetings and exhibitors, took place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre during the main event.

The ISTH and World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH) came together to host an inaugural joint fellowship event titled, “Building Capacity and Empowering Future Leaders.” The forum featured testimonials from both mentors and alumni of the WFH’s International Hemophilia Training Centre (IHTC) and ISTH Reach-The-World fellowship programs, and was designed to raise awareness of the need for leadership development and capacity building in the fields of hemophilia, hematology and thrombosis.

A unique Blood Clot Flash Mob raised Thrombosis awareness. The event was planned and staged as part of the Time2Move campaign in partnership with World Thrombosis Day. Time2Move is a global initiative that raises public awareness of blood clots, and aims to get people around the world “moving against thrombosis.”

Leaving a legacy: The Impact of ISTH’s 2015 Congress

3 Papers published in New England Journal of Medicine

  • Three groundbreaking and practice-changing studies released at the ISTH 2015 Congress were simultaneously published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) during the Congress in Toronto. It is considered historic to have had three papers published; NEJM publishes large studies that affect millions of people around the world. These three studies represent the best research in the field of thrombosis and haemostasis, and they offer a sampling of the groundbreaking research presented at the ISTH 2015 Congress.

A spotlight on Toronto

  • Hosting the ISTH Congress brought a wealth of international science collaboration to Toronto, as well as fostered grant proposals and future research emanating from Toronto and Canada. The event showcased Toronto and Canada’s expertise in this field globally.

ISTH online

  • The amount of internet bandwidth used was unprecedented with more involvement online and virtual communication than at any previous ISTH Congress. For several reasons, ISTH brought technology to the forefront of the Society’s plans going forward that were actualized during the Congress. ISTH’s mobile app was downloaded 3,810 times and had more than 174,000 sessions during the duration of the congress.
  • Additionally, the World Thrombosis Day Twitter chat hosted by ISTH and official World Thrombosis Day partners received two million impressions, and overall Twitter impressions from the entire Congress reached over 11 million.
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