by Melanie Rule, Bethany Boulton & Alex Markwell
Their lofty goal of turning conferences as we know them on their head was delivered! What a week! WRaP EM members Melanie, Bethany, Allison and Alex were in Hobart this week for the 36th ACEM Annual Scientific Meeting. The theme of this year’s conference was a timely and inspiring one – “The Changing Climate of Emergency Medicine”. It was a jam-packed week with an interesting academic program and fabulously entertaining social program.
Practical and diverse, the pre-conference workshops were both well attended and well regarded. The New Fellows’ workshop helped to answer questions and alleviate the uncertainty of stepping into a FACEM role, while the Career Longevity and Transition Workshop provided a forum for later career doctors to discuss issues relating to transitioning out of clinical medicine and into retirement. Mel encouraged the workshop participants to utilise mentoring and networking as a tool for connection, finishing the day with an innovative “speed networking” session. Sunday morning offered more workshops including cultural competency & computer programming. Many ACEM members participated in the entirely uphill Point to Pinnacle half marathon & the slightly less daunting Point to Pub 10km.
The formal college ceremony and presentation of awards is a highlight of every ASM. Congratulations to all our new FACEM colleagues who crossed the stage to receive their testamur and to the many other award recipients. Our personal favourites were the 2019 Wellbeing Awards that went to Dr Jo Cole (Individual award) and Dr Jenni Davidson and Dr Courtney Peros (Group award). This ceremony also signaled the changing of the guard as outgoing president Dr Simon Judkins handed over the reins of the college to incoming president Dr John Bonning. Many thanks go to Dr Judkins whose presidency was marked by courageous advocacy and unprecedented engagement with both members and governing bodies. The team at WRaP EM are excited to continue collaborating with the college on wellbeing issues under the leadership of Dr Bonning who as the first New Zealand college president was delivered to ACEM on Sunday by Maori elders in a moving handover ceremony.
The welcome reception was held at the iconic MONA (Museum of Modern and New Art), an unmissable component of any social program held in the capital city of the Apple Isle.
The theme of the changing climate saw a number of sessions devoted to the impacts of climate change on the health of our planet and our patients. We heard from the experts on the impact of climate change on mental health, fire preparedness and the health effects of smoke pollution, the imminent threat to island nations such as Tuvalu and the impact on global heating on marine habitats. Dr Bob Brown gave a powerful Foundation lecture encouraging us to get active in advocacy in any way we can. This clearly resonated with the audience, as several hundred doctors joined a peaceful march through the streets of Hobart on Thursday morning demanding that we “resuscitate the planet” and that climate action occur “STAT!” It was fitting to then see ACEM release a statement declaring climate change a public health emergency, in alignment with our colleagues at ACRRM and the RACP.
Key note speaker neuroscientist Dr Fiona Kerr from the NeuroTech Institute helped us to understand how our brains deal with complex problems, including the positive impact that empathy, compassion and agency have on complex decision making. We were reminded of the importance of eye contact, touch and voice in the connections we make with our patients.
The ACEM team updated us about ongoing initiatives from the college, including the launch of the Safe ED concept by immediate past president, Dr Simon Judkins. Dr Ray-mund Siauw, one of the inaugural recipients of the 2018 wellbeing award, inspired us with his outstanding Learning from Excellence (LEX) program which is running in several EDs, including Royal Hobart Hospital.
On Tuesday morning the WRaP EM team facilitated an interactive session exploring career flexibility and sustainability. Our esteemed panel (Prof Tony Lawler, Dr Fiona Kerr, Dr Juanita Rayner, Dr Steve Gourley and Dr Sue Ieraci) provided insights and relevant commentary on the challenges facing us all including sustainable rostering, shift work challenges throughout one’s career and flexible career options. It was also highlighted that one can still identify as an Emergency Physician even if one takes a break by working in another role.
In keeping with ASM tradition, Tuesday afternoon included scheduled wellbeing activities. Many opted for sailing on the Derwent River, while others took a historical walk around Hobart’s streets. Some opted to just take a well-earned nap. Hobart’s unseasonably cool weather however, had those riding down Mt Wellington in near-freezing conditions unsure whether this activity actually enhanced their wellbeing! These activities provide great opportunities for networking and were enjoyed by all who participated. We hope to see this part of the conference program continue in the future.
This ASM program was wonderfully diverse and it is impossible to do it justice in this short WRaP UP. Stand-out sessions included the Choosing Wisely sessions aimed at reducing low value care and the incredibly moving session on Emergency Medicine Responses to events of Community Violence, where we heard from staff from Hobart ED, Christchurch ED and Sri Lanka. Dr Georgina Phillips told stories of her time in Kiribati, sharing with us her warmth and her dancing skills. The award for the most entertaining presentation goes to the Irish disrupter from Canberra Dr David Caldicott who spoke on the issues of medicinal marijuana, opiate prescribing and pill testing.
The Gender Equity breakfast was a sellout and new sessions entitled the “Hobart Method”, allowed everyone to have a say on what the future of Emergency Medicine might look like in 2050. The wonderful ideas that came out of these sessions, as well as the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, will hopefully inform policy changes and conference sessions of the future.
Despite months of chatter on social media regarding what Tasmanian Gothic actually meant, the Gala Dinner saw a broad interpretation of the theme with spectacular results. The bloodied cricket bat, acquired from an unsuspecting member, provided the tireless Dr Diana Egerton-Warburton with inspiration during the rally to “com-bat” climate change.
The WRaP EM team also spent some time with high profile members and guests to record a series of interviews, focusing on the link between the physician health and patient outcomes – keep an eye out for these podcasts during Emergency Medicine Wellness Week in Autumn 2020!
This conference had a sense of optimism, urgency and inclusion, with many delegates commenting positively on “the vibe”. The conversations had reflect the need for Emergency Physicians to get involved in advocacy – not just within our departments & health organizations, but in advocating for societal change in the areas of alcohol harm minimization, pill testing and climate action. This was one of the most positive conferences we have ever had the privilege of attending.
Thank-you A/Prof Geoff Couser and the #ACEM19 organizing committee for an ethical, vegetarian, carbon offset, enjoyable and inspiring conference and for sharing the highlights of your wonderful city with us.
To Dr Aline Archambeau and the Canberra #ACEM20 team, we are looking forward to next year’s event involving four days and four themes – Knowledge, People, Systems and Practice – ACTion Under Pressure! See you in Canberra in 2020.
(Special thanks to photographer extraordinaire Dr Ric Todhunter for the use of his photos in this blog)