#WCPT2019: The thoughts of a Rookie Presenter & WCPT Delegate

By Tracy Blake, PT, PhD

What happens when 4500 physiotherapists from over 100 World Confederation for Physical Therapists (WCPT) member organizations descend on Geneva, Switzerland? Magic.

Opening ceremonies was an incredible experience- I hadn’t truly understood the breadth of the physiotherapy community until I watched the flags and membership numbers of all 121 WCPT member countries. During the opening night reception, old connections were renewed, and new connections were forged between physiotherapists from every region of the world. That theme—connection–would infuse the entire three days.

I presented on the first morning as a panelist in the focused symposium entitled, “Diversity and inclusion- what it means in physiotherapy”. In addition to meeting all but one of my co-panelists in person for the first time an hour before, WCPT President  (Dr. Emma Stokes), CEO (Jonathon Krueger), and Deputy CEO (Tracy Bury) were among the attendees. I was so nervous! It was also an opportunity for our panel to promote the WCPT Diversity and Inclusion policy , which I was on the working group to help shape, and which had been ratified during the General Assembly two days earlier. I shared my thoughts on the role of diversity and inclusion in sport physiotherapy, and invited attendees to  put the concepts into action in their own practices by being accountable, reflective, and critical. It was my first time speaking publicly on this topic, and framing power, privilege and population health in a sport physiotherapy context.  I could not have had a more generous reaction from those in attendance. The experience led to incredible moments of conversation and conversation throughout the weekend with physiotherapists across countries, cultures, disciplines and denominations.

A session on implicit bias was an amazing illustration of the power of diversity and inclusion in action- check it out. In addition to the many other presentations, Dr. John Hammond led everyone in an activity called the Privilege Walk. It was fascinating to watch as assumptions and biases about privilege were shared and challenged in real time, in an environment that cultivated inclusion through the engagement of panelists and attendees alike.

WCPT Congress is truly a meeting of all aspects of the profession, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to attend sessions whose topics were outside of my area; I was educated, challenged, and inspired as a result. The Rehabilitation in Humanitarian Emergencies symposium included WCPT Humanitarian Service Award recipient Daniel Wapperstein. His presentation, was about the successes and challenges of early rehabilitation response to humanitarian emergencies through his own work following the Ecuadorian earthquake. He ended with a quotation of his recently departed sister, Susan Wapperstein (1966-2019):

“How does a world that builds its history on the voices of everyone sound?…There are no vulnerable people or groups, people and social groups are vulnerable because someone has made them vulnerable, because someone has the power to make them vulnerable.”

The experience of watching Mr. Wapperstein recite this quote while still in mourning, still moves me. The power of the words, which, speak directly to the heart of why diversity and inclusion matter in every facet of our professional work, will last a lifetime.

There was so much more:

  • Using technology and live-streaming sessions to help battle the fear of missing out on a program full of interesting topics, but also lots of competing sessions
  • Indabas, which were informal sessions where delegates could grab a seat and take deeper dives into a wide variety of topics
  • Networking sessions by WCPT subgroups (I went to the International Federation of Sport Physical Therapy and the International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Physical Therapy) and member organizations (Go Canada House!), where you could learn, brainstorm, and network in equal measure

Connection was the key that unlocked it all, in whatever way you needed, in whatever way you chose. The 2019 edition of the WCPT Congress was a glorious illustration that the global community of physiotherapists is alive, well, and ready, willing and able to evolve to meet the needs of the physiotherapy community, and the communities in which it serves. I left a little overwhelmed, a lot motivated, and deeply, deeply grateful for every bit of it. Dubai, anyone?

Thoughts and Reflections from a First Time Attendee

By Kyle Vader, PT, MScPT

From May 9-12 I had the pleasure of attending the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT) Congress in Geneva, Switzerland. This was my first time attending a WCPT Congress and I had a fantastic time. To top it off, I was lucky enough to receive an ‘Outstanding Poster Award’ for the North American Caribbean region on my research titled ‘Experiences participating in physical activity and exercise among adults living with chronic pain: an interpretive description qualitative study.’

Congress highlights included meeting physiotherapists from across the world (with over 100 countries represented), reconnecting with Canadian physiotherapists in attendance, and getting to learn top notch research and professional issues relevant to the profession. Coming back to my work in Kingston, I can’t help but feel ‘charged up’ and ready to get back into the swing of things.

Stand out sessions from Congress included a talk on Diversity and Inclusion (chaired by Dr. Jenny Setchell from University of Queensland), Implicit Bias (chaired by Dr. Jackie Whittaker from University of Alberta), and Pain and Pain Management (chaired by Dr. Peter O’Sullivan from Curtin University). As someone who is new to practice (having graduated from my PT training at U of T in 2015), it was incredibly energizing to be around such a diverse community of clinicians, educators, researchers, policy makers, and other leaders in the field of physiotherapy.

A big take home for me was shared by WCPT President Dr. Emma Stokes from Trinity College Dublin, which focused on why we have conferences nowadays, given alternative modes of communication like the internet, twitter, skype, etc. In response to this, Dr. Stokes shared that we need conferences because “we meet, we connect, we share, we talk, we laugh, we dine, we create lasting friendships, and because of that, we are better.” I’ve very grateful to have had the chance to attend WCPT Congress and I’m proud to feel part of the global physiotherapy community.

Kyle Vader is a physiotherapist in an interprofessional chronic pain clinic at Kingston Health Sciences Centre, PhD student in Rehabilitation Science at Queen’s University, and a recipient of a Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS-D) from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. His clinical and research interests focus on pain, primary health care, and knowledge translation. Kyle is actively involved in his community, currently serving as District President of the Quinte-St. Lawrence District of the Ontario Physiotherapy Association and Trainee Representative on the Leadership Team of the Canadian Pain Society. You can reach Kyle by email at kyle.vader@queensu.ca or on Twitter @vader_kyle.