Rendez-Vous 2012 participants recommend changes

Roger Strasser, Founding Dean, Northern Ontario School of Medicine

After two years of preparation by many, Rendez-Vous 2012, five world conferences in one, proved to be one of this year’s most exciting international conference opportunities for health professional education. Hosted by the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) from October 9 to 14, Rendez-Vous 2012 welcomed more than 850 delegates from nearly 50 countries and six continents, including 486 delegates from North America, 124 delegates from Africa, 100 delegates from Australia, 80 delegates from Asia, 51 delegates from Europe and 37 delegates from South America. This conference truly brought the world to Northern Ontario.

Rendez-Vous 2012 began with an exciting keynote presentation by Dr. Timothy Evans titled, Does Praxis make perfect? Evans, dean of the James P. Grant School of Public Health at BRAC University and International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, discussed the long history of medical professional shortages around the world, and how global public health education must be transformed to address these shortages.

In addition to Evans’ presentation, there were many notable highlights throughout the conference, including 14 plenary speakers, a student-led panel discussion, and even a special Improv session (titled Lessons in Regaining Humanity through Improv Theatre) put on by NOSM’s own faculty member Dr. Bryan Macleod—to name but a few. The mix of over 400 oral presentations, poster presentations, Personally Arranged Learning Sessions (PeArLS), and interactive workshops was outstanding. Every session engaged participants in thought-provoking discussions relative to a shared commitment to the conference’s theme of “Community Participation in Education, Research and Service.”

If you were unable to attend Rendez- Vous 2012, you are still able to watch many archived presentations by visiting www.rendez-vous2012.ca. I encourage you to take a look!

During their stay, some of the delegates chose to participate in the Conference on the Move portion of Rendez-Vous 2012. Conference on the Move featured four bus excursions that allowed participants to discover the distributed communities and NOSM’s community partners throughout the North. On the way to the final destinations of Marathon, Sioux Lookout and Sudbury, participants were able to visit a variety of health-care providers, community organizations, and cultural and historical sites. For some, it was also their first opportunity to see snow falling from the sky, a moose in the back of a pick-up truck, or the breathtaking display of leaves turning colour for which Northern Ontario is known during that time of year.

Those who stayed in Thunder Bay while Conference on the Move was under way had the opportunity to explore and meet some of NOSM’s Thunder Bay and area community partners on the Portage Express. Delegates were able to experience aboriginal and francophone culture, take part in interactive historical displays, and trek in the wilderness, as well as witness health education, research, technology and even search and rescue in action. More than 30 locations in Thunder Bay and the surrounding areas received Rendez-Vous 2012 delegates, with some locations such as Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) and St. Joseph’s Care Group welcoming delegates to various departments across the organization.

One very important outcome of the Rendez-Vous 2012 conference is a series of recommendations prepared by the participants of the conference titled the Thunder Bay Communiqué: New Ways of Thinking. This communiqué is being disseminated by the Rendez-Vous 2012 co-hosting organizations as a challenge to individuals, organizations and governments for implementation. A synopsis of their recommendations includes:

• Supporting underserved communities to grow in their ability to identify and voice their health needs and work to guide institutions educating health practitioners in providing targeted training that will address these needs

• Communities must be part of generating solutions to their own health-care needs and enabled to be actively involved in implementing these solutions

• The Melbourne Manifesto and subsequent World Health Organization (WHO) Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel should be implemented and reported on by governments

• Health systems should be strengthened through universal coverage leading to improved access

• The effectiveness of systems such as capitation, fee-for-service and pay-for-performance should be rigorously assessed as the basis for an evidence based approach to health-care financing

• Health services should be delivered wherever possible by locally-based health-care teams that include generalist practitioners who are empowered to deliver and co-ordinate comprehensive care and to integrate the implementation of disease based programs where they exist, and

• The improvement of the health of communities requires the empowerment and involvement of women and improving their safety and social, educational and economic standing.

A full version of the Thunder Bay Communiqué can be found on the Rendez-Vous 2012 website at www.rendez-vous2012.ca.

I can’t say enough about the people and our partners who contributed to this important conference. On behalf of Sue Berry, conference co-chair, and myself, congratulations, well done, and thank you.

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