I had the opportunity to attend 2 major conferences involving a combination of several groups of professionals working in the field of liver disease. The conferences were held between March 2-5 in Banff, Alberta, on Stony Creek Territory. The first was the Canadian Digestive Diseases Week conference (CDDW) hosted by the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver (CASL), and the second was the CAHN conference (The Canadian Association of Hepatology Nurses) which consists of registered nurses, nurse-practitioners and licensed practical nurses who function at a number of levels but all work with hepatologists and other physicians treating people with hepatitis C.
Although it is becoming far less complicated since the advent of recent wonder drugs, more people are being treated and need follow up as they remain vulnerable to some problems including liver cancer. It really is a new era, with amazing breakthroughs demonstrated vividly via a new film of microscopic antibodies and T-cells engaged in battles before our eyes, like a Star Wars show. In addition, we heard about the current illicit drug trade and overdose situation from the emergency-medicine perspective in London Ontario, the complete coverage payment scheme newly launched in Australia, and so much more.
This year was quite different from past conferences. First of all, I had the honour of travelling and rooming with our new board member, Susan Malloch, R.N., who was great company and full of insight since she has walked through the Hepatitis C experience with her dear late spouse Alan, a member too. Hats off to Susan for her courage. We listened to many presentations, some very technical, about new direct acting antivirals and their interactions – beyond my full comprehension – but others right “up our alley”. The research on shared drug-using filters by nurse–epidemiologist and professor, Dr. Holly Hagan of New York University, was an eye-opener. As always, I came away stimulated and hopeful seeing a root-causes of poor health and greater access to tolerable treatment being recognized. The needs for education and for attention to our youngest and most vulnerable are clear.
Issues of colonization and cultural sensitivity came up in more than one talk, along with a panel devoted to indigenous concerns. It was skillfully led by First Nations physician Dr. Alexandra King, who specializes in Hepatitis C in communities of the interior of the province especially. The perspective of these four women was an important highlight of the conference. We have a lot to do, but indigenous people have much to show us about resilience and perseverance and compassion in the face of difficulty.