Bonjour! Bienvenue a le Congres Canadien D’Hepatologie!

By Natalie Simonian

Previous travel bites in the IMS Magazine have reported leaving frigid Toronto behind for warmer cities. To deviate from this common theme, I left late Thursday afternoon to head to Montreal, Toronto’s (colder) cousin! The road to Montreal was paved with good intentions and a long six-hour drive. Luckily, I had the company of my family, as my mother is a gastroenterologist attending the gastro version (CAG) of my liver conference. 

The morning after my arrival, I spent the day exploring Montreal. Overall, the city is very historic, as demonstrated by the cobblestone walkways down Rue St. Antoinne.  Saturday began bright and early at the liver conference. Since this was my first conference, I’ll admit I was intimidated more than once during that weekend. I was a first-year master’s student among all the PhDs and physicians who had been in the hepatology field for years. I made my way to registration, donned my badge and looked at the program. 

Many of the talks were centered around Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease which is my research focus. While all talks were interesting, a couple of speakers stood out, because they brought a human element to their presentation. At the pediatric liver disease talk, the presenter mentioned that many adolescent liver transplant recipients die because of lack of adherence to medication in this transitionary adolescence period of their life. With a heavy heart, he explained the need to adequately bridge pediatric care to the transitionary period to an internal medicine doctor, in a way that I’m sure impacted everyone in the room (master’s students and physicians alike).

Other interesting snippets I picked up were the occurrence of sexual dysfunction in cirrhotic patients (patients with advanced liver fibrosis due to hepatitis B/C/fatty liver). The presenter (a hepatologist) explained how out of his depth he felt when patients expressed they were experiencing sexual performance problems, because after all, hepatology is a sub-specialty of internal medicine and not focused on reproductive issues! The hepatologist explained the need to expand their knowledge base to include potential reproductive issues in order to holistically treat the patient, instead of focusing on a single organ. To be able to see the whole picture, as well as the component parts, is how I would like to practice medicine in the future! After spending Saturday learning about the consequences of liver dysfunction, I spent Saturday evening at a reception drinking white wine with my co-workers, the irony!

I awoke the next Sunday and attended more talks until about 12 pm. As the conference hit closing ceremonies, I left and hit the streets of Montreal one last time to try some of the spectacular bagels at St. Viateur Bagel Shop, and if you are going to Montreal, I definitely recommend trying their “all-dressed” bagels as well as trying some lamb poutine from Modaive. Overall, the trip was filled with warm welcomes from presenters and cold hands courtesy of the Montreal frigid air!