A view from the back of the hall at a focused symposium during the WCPT Congress in 2011

Calling on professional leaders: an opportunity to bring important issues to the international stage

WCPT is calling on physical therapists who are leaders in their fields to propose sessions on cutting edge professional topics at its international congress, to be held in Singapore in 2015.

It is inviting proposals for focused symposia – key congress sessions designed to explore and debate topics that are of importance to the profession. Focused symposia at the last WCPT Congress in Amsterdam covered, among other subjects, pain, future trends in cardiac rehabilitation, physical therapy leadership in disability and HIV, moral action and Cochrane systematic reviews for stroke rehabilitation. Presentations from a selection of symposia are still available to view online. 

“Focused symposia are always popular with congress delegates, drawing large audiences, providing lively discussion and lots of positive feedback,” says Aimée Stewart, Chair of the congress International Scientific Committee, who was also a speaker at a symposium on developing clinical practice guidelines at the congress in 2011 in Amsterdam.

“Presenters can explore the implications of the latest research and thinking in an international group, as well as debate controversies, leading to further interactions,” she says. “A particular highlight for me was being able to bring a developing world point of view to an audience mostly made up of physical therapists from the developed world in order to highlight our particular challenges.”   

Focused symposia are one-and-a-half-hour sessions led by a convenor who is a recognised authority in their field. The convenor leads a team of presenters, from at least three WCPT regions, through a series of presentations on a topic, linking together different research and practice perspectives. 

There is then a discussion period with the audience. At the end, the convenor gives some insight into the implications and future directions for practice, research and education.

Laura Lee “Dolly” Swisher from the University of South Florida in the United States was the convenor of a focused symposium on “Forging links to moral action: reaching beyond boundaries” at the last WCPT Congress in 2011, and says how grateful she was to have the opportunity to raise the issue of morality at the biggest international event for physical therapists.

“The requirement that focused symposia must have representation from different parts of the world shapes the way that you think,” she says. “In our event, involving someone from Afghanistan forced us to think far outside of the parameters of the predominant western paradigm, which forms the backdrop of most medical and health care ethics.”

“You are seldom more aware of the basic assumptions underlying your scholarship or practice as when you are in dialogue with others around the globe who may not share the same cultural, philosophical, religious, or policy assumptions. This process is truly horizon-expanding.”  

One member of her presenting team had to overcome difficult bureaucratic hurdles to gain entry to the Netherlands and attend the congress. “He made many sacrifices to be there,” says Dolly Swisher. “It made me realise the significance of the moment.  Until we were all in front of the group, it was hard to believe that we had come from around the world to talk from so many perspectives.  Not long ago, attendance at national ethics presentations might have had just a few attendees. It was amazing to see international interest.”     

If you are interested in convening, or being involved in, a focused symposium at the WCPT Congress 2015, you can download the formal call for focused symposia here. The deadline for submissions is 30th September 2013. 

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