A breath of fresh ocean air at the Canadian Respiratory Conference in Victoria, British Columbia

Article by Stacey J Butler

Graphic design by Michie (Xingyu) Wu

After a two-year hiatus, in-person conferences finally resumed this spring and I was overjoyed at having the opportunity to travel to beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, for the 2022 Canadian Respiratory Conference (CRC). In-person conferences offer so much more than their virtual counterparts. I was able to reconnect with colleagues, talk candidly about the sessions and our research with peers, and network with experts in my field–all experiences that were missed with virtual meetings. Better yet, I was able to do all of this while embracing the change in scenery and exploring a new city.  

Photo Credit: Stacey Butler

The conference opened with a traditional indigenous blanket ceremony to show our respect to the Saanich Nation of Coast Salish Peoples, who welcomed us to their land. Throughout downtown Victoria you can see totem poles celebrating the island’s Indigenous heritage. Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park is also home to one of the world’s largest totem poles, at an astounding 127 feet high. 

University of Toronto’s own Dr. Samir Gupta opened the conference with a discussion of Long COVID, featuring videos from three Canadians living with this condition. We got to hear first-hand how Long COVID has affected their lives and how they have struggled to be taken seriously by healthcare providers. This was the first time I had seen patient perspectives included in a presentation and it really drove home the message Dr. Gupta was trying to convey. In addition to COVID-19, there were many other timely topics such as the impact of air pollution and wildfires on lung health, and early integration of palliative care for people with chronic respiratory diseases. 

The absolute highlight of the conference for many was the concluding plenary session by Dr. Timothy Caulfield entitled ‘Infodemic: misinformation in the media’. Dr. Caulfield is a very dynamic speaker and had the audience in hysterics as he walked us through the different COVID-19 conspiracy theories. Dr. Caulfield spoke about how celebrities had both positive and negative influences and provided insight into how some people could fall victim to these wild ideologies. He also provided us with effective strategies to debunk misinformation. Beginning and ending the conference with sessions on COVID-19 was bittersweet. It is a topic many of us are tired of hearing about, yet it was important to celebrate all of the incredible research that has been done at a truly phenomenal pace. 

Travelling for conferences is one of the biggest perks of graduate school. One of my best friends went to law school in Victoria and created a tour guide for me, fully equipped with a table of contents. Thanks to Emily, I indulged in the best food and explored the best places. The sun was shining for my final day in Victoria and I took the opportunity to take a long walk by the ocean and breathe in the salty air. Returning to Ontario I felt invigorated and had renewed motivation to continue my thesis and help the millions of Canadians living with respiratory disease.