The North American Refugee Health Conference 2017, the largest refugee health conference of its kind, was held this June in Toronto. Designed for those at the frontline in addressing refugee health needs, this biennial conference welcomed over 650 speakers and participants making this year a great success.
This one of a kind event provided participants with access to the most recent research, best practices in refugee health, and a great opportunity for networking. Dr. Peter Polatin, a world expert in psychiatry opened the conference with a talk on PTSD in refugees. This was followed by 12 concurrent sessions, 52 workshops and 88 oral presentations over the three days of the conference. Between sessions, there were over 100 posters on display covering the latest research and best practices in refugee integration, education and mental health. Topics included: updates in refugee health policy in North America and overseas; Global Challenges for LGBTI Refugees; Recommendations for Future Humanitarian Action; and the migrations of vulnerable populations from American to Canada, and from Latin America.
The personal stories of those who witnessed or experienced the refugee crisis stood out. Susan Ormiston, a journalist with the Canadian Broadcast Corporation gave her accounts of reporting as the Syrian crisis unfolded and following the challenges and successes of a young Syrian family on their journey to Canada. Courageous individuals who lived the perilous refugee journey, shared their stories of loss, resilience and success. Dr. Vanig Garabedian a Syrian gynaecologist, described what it was like to continue to work in Syria despite the hospital being bombed and conducting procedures without electricity; Nevzat Keskin a Kurdish television journalist, in a heart-wrenching account, showed pictures of his house before and after it was bombed in Turkey; Wanes Moubayed, a Syrian violinist, is now playing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Dr. Anna Banerji, Conference Director and Chair, noted that the commitment and dedication of participants as key to the conference’s success. “These individuals are so passionate. Their continued efforts are improving health care for refugee populations and protecting human rights. There is a sense of hope and commitment to make things better. It is great to be a part of this.”
The next North American Refugee Health Conference will be held in 2018 in Portland Oregon and then return to Toronto in 2019. View highlights from the 2017 conference here.