Different Perspectives in Canada’s Capital

Different Perspectives in Canada’s Capital

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By: Sumaya Dano
Photo by: Sumaya Dano

Canada’s capital is where the annual Canadian Society of Transplant (CST) conference took place this year, and it was beautiful for a great little get-away starting off with a scenic train ride by VIA rail.

The conference was located at the Westin hotel, which was the perfect location to visit the Rideau Center and the parliament. The location of the conference was also ideal to explore downtown Ottawa, especially the famous ByWard market, which is one of the oldest public markets in Canada (and also where you can find delicious Beaver Tails!).

It was interesting to see how bilingual the conference was, and how researchers were able to communicate with each other in English and French. Another fascinating aspect of the conference was the different perspectives and topics addressed compared to previous CST conferences. One new component of the conference I truly enjoyed was the emphasis on patient engagement. Patients from all over the world, including a heart-transplant recipient from England, who came to the conference to present their perspectives on transplant, and share their experiences and challenges.

Along with presentations about kidney allocation and optimizing post-transplant outcomes, a few presentations also addressed the barriers facing patients towards transplantation. Transplant recipients and their family members shared insightful aspects about the financial barriers in becoming a living donor for transplantation. One particularly interesting story was from a kidney transplant donor from Quebec. She described the tedious process that was involved in becoming a living donor candidate and how she was lucky to work at a company that was supportive of her life adjustments. She was finally deemed as a match for her son and donated her kidney. However, despite the minimal health risks of donating a kidney, she mentioned that her life insurance rates increased significantly. People generally are able to live healthy lives with one kidney, but the donor’s insurance did not reflect the numerous studies that suggest no significant negative outcomes of kidney donation. The insurance issue raised after kidney donation was an interesting aspect I did not realize also played a role in the overall financial burden to becoming a donor. Such experiences and stories are not things I would necessarily think of when it comes to the outcomes and impacts of kidney transplantation, which made the guest speaker’s talks all the more thought-provoking.

During the oral presentations it was great to see the diversity in transplantation research including research conducted on different organs.  However, there were also posters that had more clinical themes and others that focused on the psychosocial aspects. After speaking to a few presenters at the conference, they mentioned how mental health and other psychological themes have become increasingly present in these conferences, which is another important perspective that was incorporated in this meeting this year.

This year’s CST conference was a great trip to Ottawa and an excellent opportunity to network and be exposed to different ideas. Not only did the conference give me the opportunity to speak to people who were doing similar research as myself, but it also enabled me to hear from transplant recipients and learn about what their priorities and perspectives in transplant. This was very interesting, because after all, the ultimate goal of the research we do is to improve the quality of life of these patients. I was also able to hear from researchers who are working on projects related to transplantation beyond my research area. CST was a great experience in Ottawa, giving me the opportunity to share my research and contribute to all the different perspectives addressed in CST.