Putting an end to all uncertainties and apprehensions, IAPCON 2021, an online conference, began with the active participation of over 400 delegates from various parts of India as well as from 20 other countries. This is the first time in the 28 years of IAPCON, the Annual International Conference of the IAPC (IAPCON2021) is being conducted virtually.

The conference was inaugurated at the venue, at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Patna. Prof. Prabhat Kumar Singh, Director, AIIMS Patna, lit the lamp to inaugurate the conference. Dr. N. R. Biswas, Director, IGIMS Patna, Dr. L. B. Singh, Medical Superintendent, Mahavir Cancer Sansthan, Dr. C. M. Singh, Medical Superintendent, AIIMS Patna, Dr. Umesh Kumar Badhanai, Secretary, Organising Committee, and Dr. Chandni Sinha, Secretary, Scientific Committee were also present on the dias during the inaugural ceremony. Dr. Sushma Bhatnagar, President, IAPC and Dr. Savita Butola, Secretary, IAPC participated in the inaugural function virtually. Dr. Bhatnagar and Dr. Butola congratulated the organizing team for a successful launch of the conference.

The scientific sessions of the conference were held from 4 PM to 8 PM and included insightful and captivating sessions on Pain, Kidney Supportive Care, Palliative Nursing, and Spiritual Care. Day 1 of the conference concluded with a session on the evaluation of IAPC’s Certificate Course in Essentials of Palliative Care.

“There were apprehensions about the virtual mode. But we did Day 1 successfully. It was a great start with a session on Pain. More than 300 participants were present at any given point of time. Thank you my dear friends and colleagues for making this happen”, said Dr. Bhatnagar, in her statement as she congratulated all those who were involved with and supported this initiative.

“A large number of delegates attended the inaugural ceremony and scientific sessions. The academic content of the lectures covered advances in different areas and shared latest developments. The pre- conference workshop was conducted in a ‘hybrid’ manner (both online and offline). There were 85 delegates present in the class room session held at AIIMS Patna, and 50 delegates participated virtually. It is a huge success”, expressed Dr. Umesh Kumar Badani, Secretary, Organising Committee.

Indeed, it is a proud moment for Dr Badani and his team to have launched the program successfully, despite the challenges imposed by the COVID19 pandemic.

Day-1 of the conference had Sessions on:

Pain

Dr. Sushma Bhatnagar, Head, Department of Onco-Anaesthesia and Palliative Care, AIIMS, New Delhi (President, IAPC) was the theme leader of the first session on Pain. Dr. Srinivasa Raja, John Hopkins University, USA, Dr Lukas Radbruch, University of Bonn, Germany, and Dr. Andrew S. C. Rice, Imperial College, London, were the speakers.

Kidney and Supportive Care

Dr. Pankaj Singhai, Asst. Professor, Department of Palliative Medicine and Supportive Care, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal was the theme leader for the session on Kidney Supportive Care. The one hour session was covered by 3 eminent faculties from India and Australia, from the field of Kidney Supportive Care.

Dr. Nandini Vallath, Palliative Care Physicians, Mumbai, shared the story of how Palliative Nephrology in India was born and the journey so far. Her presentation revealed the symptom burden of patients with Chronic Kidney Disease in India and the unmet need of palliative care in this area.

Dr. Amanda Siriwandana, St. George Hospital, Sydney, a young nephrologist with special interest in Renal Supportive Care presented her study. She highlighted the need to integrate Kidney supportive care with Nephrology so that complex symptoms in renal patients could be effectively managed. Dr Frank Brennan, an eminent palliative care physician from Sydney concluded the session where he briefly explained the taste changes in patients with Chronic Kidney Disease and evidence based management.

This one hour session on Kidney and Supportive Care aimed to improve the awareness on the need for Palliative Care for patients with kidney diseases, as well as to develop collaborative research and education in this field in India,” said Dr. Singhai, the theme leader of this session. “Kidney Supportive care services are expanding globally. I am sure this session would have inspired many for initiating similar service here” added Dr. Singhai.

Palliative Nursing

Sr. Hanife Mac Gamwell, Hon. Head, ELNEC, India, was the theme leader for this session. Faculty included Dr Betty Ferrel, Principal Investigator of ELNEC, Dr Julia Downing, Executive Director, ICPCN, and Mr. Ratish Nair Head Nursing College, AIIMS, Patna.

The session primarily focused on Education, practice and challenges in Palliative Care Nursing. Speakers highlighted the imminent need for to provide role clarity for palliative care nurses, within the healthcare framework, much like what is available for nurses from other specialties. The session concluded with the panel unanimously consenting towards empowering palliative care nurses and also providing leadership roles for PC nurses to improve the quality of care developed.

Spirituality

Dr. Nagesh Simha, Medical Director, Karunashraya, Bangalore and Dr. Vidya Viswanathan, Asst. Professor, HBCH&RC, Visakhapatnam were the theme leaders for the segment on Spirituality. The speakers from the session covered different aspects of spiritual care and its importance.

Dr. Christina Puchalski a pioneer and the Director, George Washington University of Spirituality and Health, gave an overview on how spiritual care gained importance.

Dr. Fiona Rawilnson, Cardiff, UK, shared her vast experience in teaching spirituality and the challenges she overcame while doing so. She also threw light on the differences between religion and spirituality.

Dr. Seema Rao shared an excellent overview of the array of issues she had to encounter while working with patients in the context of COVID-19.

“It will be very useful for our doctors. But our doctors need to be given more information about what spirituality and spiritual care are” said Dr Simha, one of the theme leaders of the session.

Dr. Vidya Viswanathan, another theme leader from the session, emphasized the critical need to develop a tool for spiritual assessment which is relevant to the Indian context. “May be through IAPC, we can work out a multi-centric study on addressing spiritual concerns” she suggested.

Virtual Vs Physical Conference

Delegates Opinion

Dr. Singhai expressed apprehensions towards online conferences and mentioned that he prefers a hybrid model. “A physical conference is needed for better collaboration among people as it leaves a better impact on attendees. However, in some circumstances, delegates are unable to travel and attend physically. In such cases, they should get the opportunity to participate virtually and have access to recorded sessions with the option to share their doubts and questions to faculty,” says Dr. Singhai as he elaborates his view.

“As far as the virtual conference is concerned, it does not excite me; I am so used to physical meetings!” says Dr. Simha, Medical Director, Karunashraya. He also shared the opinion that the scientific committee had done its best.

The three day conference concluded on Sunday, 21st March, 2021.

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