Rendez-Vous 2012 inspires many, advocates new ways of thinking

November, 2012

From October 9-14, 2012, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) welcomed the world to Northern Ontario for one of this year’s most exciting international conference opportunities for health professional education.

Rendez-Vous 2012 brought together the Wonca World Rural Health conference and The Network: Towards Unity for Health annual conference, as well as the next NOSM/Flinders conference on Community Engaged Medical Education, the Consortium for Longitudinal Integrated Curricula, and the Training for Health Equity Network. More than 850 delegates from nearly fifty 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—came to this stimulating conference to share experiences, consider new ideas, and learn from each other.

Rendez-Vous 2012 began with the exciting keynote presentation by Dr Timothy Evans titled, Does Praxis make perfect? Evans, Dean at 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) — to name but a few. The mix of over 400 oral presentations, poster presentations, Personally Arranged Learning Sessions (PeArLS), and interactive workshops were 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.

WONCA President, Richard Roberts speaking at Rendez-Vous 2012

“Rendez-Vous 2012 was a tremendous success,” said Dr Roger Strasser, NOSM’s Dean. “Many conference participants came to me saying that this was the best conference they had attended and that there was not a single session which disappointed them.”

To illuminate the diverse populations across Northern Ontario, participants were offered the opportunity to travel to various communities across the North through the Conference on the Move portion of the week. In four separate routes, participants travelled to Sioux Lookout, Marathon, and Sudbury with special visits to NOSM’s community partners along the way. Delegates saw first-hand how rural family practitioners provide the bulk of health care across the North, and how videoconferencing technology has changed access to specialized health care.
Conference participants also had the opportunity to explore and meet more than 30 of NOSM’s community partners in Thunder Bay and surrounding area on the Portage Express, a Community Journey. 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.

Prof Ian Couper receives the John Macleod Oration award from Dr Macleod's widow, Lorna Macleod, and their son Alistair Macleod.

A highlight of the conference was the inaugural John Macleod Oration delivered by Professor Ian Couper, Chair of the Wonca Working Party on Rural Practice. Dr Macleod was a lifelong crusader for rural practice and founding member of the Wonca Working Party on Rural Practice, who died in 2010. Prof Couper presented an entertaining and thought-provoking oration entitled Outsiders, outlaws, and outliers: A view from the inside. This presentation and all other plenary sessions are archived on the conference website: John Macleod’s widow and son were present for the inaugural John Macleod Oration, which will be a regular feature of future Wonca Rural Health World Conferences.

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, which stresses the importance of community participation in health professional education, research and service, is being disseminated by Wonca and the other Rendez-Vous 2012 co-hosting organizations as a challenge to individuals, organizations and governments for implementation.

Download the full version of the Thunder Bay Communiqué.