Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The WPC Experience, a Volunteer Perspective

Mara and I attended the World Parkinson's Congress (WPC) in Portland, OR in September and it was a phenomenal experience.  The WPC is a meeting held every three years that brings together PwP's, Caregivers, Researchers and members of the medical community to discuss what's happening in PD research and care.  This year's meeting was the biggest so far with over 4,400 attendees from all over the world.  The presentations ranged from highly technical research results to what is the best exercises for PD and what's on the horizon.

Many of my fellow PD bloggers were in Portland and I have read many excellent posts about their experiences at the WPC which I have linked to at the bottom of this post.  I met a few authors of blogs I follow and saw several others but didn't get a chance to meet face to face as I performed my volunteer duties.

Rather than duplicate the information contained in the many excellent posts by my fellow PD bloggers, I thought I would write about the WPC from a volunteer's perspective.  As you can imagine, a conference with over 4,400 attendees from all over the world takes a lot of work and coordination.  The volunteer coordinator was Matthew DePace and he had his hands full making sure all of the presentations were covered, greeters were stationed around to answer questions and guide attendees and be the point person for any problems we might have with microphones, projectors etc. He not only managed to pull it all off, he provided snacks in the volunteer room to keep us going!  

 I was assigned as a greeter/room monitor for one of the presentation rooms, so I was able to see and  hear some of the presentations in that room each afternoon when I wasn't scanning in the attendees and handing out hall passes (OK maybe I didn't have to hand out hall passes)Mara mostly worked in the registration area directing attendees to the right locations, helping them find the presentation room they needed, handing out convention goodie bags and programs and answering all kinds of questions.

Being a volunteer was hectic and exhausting but it was also exciting and rewarding.  We met PwP's of all ages from all over the world and had the opportunity to talk about differences in care, diagnoses, etc.  We saw many old friends from the Grand Challenge meetings in Grand Rapids and other meetings we have attended. And we made new friends as we expanded our international support group.

Even though we were busy, we did attend several sessions including ones on stem cell research and exercise.  One of the highlights for us was being present when Tom Issacs of the Cure Parkinson's Trust in the UK received the WPC award for Distinguished Contributions to the Parkinson's Community.  I have written about Tom before (here and here) and this award was well deserved.  Tom's acceptance speech was a mixture of gratitude, humor and hope. 

The closing ceremony was an emotional end to a great 4 days and included this quote from Dr. A. Jon Stoessl, President-elect of the WPC who said, "In the clinic, we focus on what you can't do but at WPC 2016 we see all the things you can do.". This is the plus of bringing together PwP's, care partners, members of the PD medical community and researchers in one place.  We found this to be true in the Grand Challenge events and it was exciting to see it work on such a large scale.

After yet another phenomenal performance by Tom Issacs who sung a song to the tune of Climb Every Mountain (watch the unplugged version here) the conference ended with a drum ceremony that involved the entire audience.  

As promised here are several links to blog posts from other bloggers that attended the WPC.  By no means are these the only links, there are many posts, tweets (#WPC2016), and web pages with great information from the WPC, so fire up your favorite search engine to find more!


from Sheryl Jedlinski (Living Well with Parkinson's Disease)

Arriving At the World Parkinson's Congress and Perky's Interview with Brian Grant from Allison Smith (The Perky Parkie)

Notes from the World Parkinson's Congress from Kirk Hall (Shaky Paws Grandpa)

World Parkinson's Congress 2016 from Karl Robb (A Soft Voice in a Noisy World)

5 Inspirational moments from the World Parkinson's Congress 2016 from Parkinson's Life

WPC Highlights - Eli Pollard and The World Parkinson's Congress 2016 from The Cure Parkinson's Trust

Again this is not a complete list but should give you a pretty good feeling for the World Parkinson's Congress 2016!

We are back in Sarasota and I have started Pedaling for PD and the PD in Motion classes so my exercise time is ramping back up after a few weeks (or months) of being a bit lazy.  It's amazing how quickly you are able to get going again and even more amazing how much better I feel.  More about the Sarasota Experiment Part Two in the next post.

"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop." - Confucius

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