WCPT president Emma Stokes at congress in Singapore
WCPT president Emma Stokes at congress in Singapore

WCPT Congress in Cape Town offers a unique chance to laugh and learn

By Emma Stokes, WCPT President

International conferences can be life-changing. As the global physical therapy community prepares for WCPT Congress in Cape Town, Emma Stokes reflects on her journey so far.

I am what I am because of the physiotherapists I have met on my international learning journey of almost two decades. A day doesn't pass when I am not grateful for that privilege.

My first WCPT Congress was in Yokohama, in 1999. The magic is alive in my memory as I see the opening ceremony, attended by the Emperor, and an auditorium filled with therapists from around the world. No meeting has been so influential on my professional development.

Spending three days with the global physical therapy community is a joy. Yokohama, like the WCPT Congress in Singapore, was rich with excitement, connections, and diversity. You know that you are part of a bigger community.

When I return my world always seems lessened as I reorient myself to what feels, just for a while, two-dimensional. And then I am buoyed by the richness of the experience. It is unique. It has to be experienced to be fully understood – that’s why so many therapists return.

In July 2017 we will come together once again at the WCPT Congress in Cape Town. It will be a time to meet old friends and make new ones. It will be a time to learn and to share new knowledge, a time to debate and discuss and a time to shape the direction of our profession. Early career researchers will present their findings and, if they are lucky like I was, they will be gently guided in their next steps by current leaders.

We will attend pre- and post-congress courses, focused symposia, discussions and debates. We will generate a legacy which will be greater than the sum of its parts. Networks will be created and ideas will grow and develop, like the research on the #globalpt hashtag which arose from a social media networking session in the early hours of the morning in Singapore.

We know that there are many calls on therapist’s time and resources, and that some won’t be able to attend this time. Help to plan your trip to Cape Town is available now. We have made every effort to make the registration fee accessible. Coming to Cape Town is a great investment in our professional development, and an experience that will stay with you long after leaving South Africa.

A traditional African philosophy says, ‘I am what I am because of what we all are’. This offers us an understanding of ourselves in relation to the world around us. Our world is facing unprecedented challenges, and we are stronger and better if we stand together.

Next year’s congress is unique: the first in our WCPT Africa Region, and the first to come two years since the last. It will be a time to be together and to celebrate the value of physical therapy. It is an opportunity to celebrate our diversity, to grow in the face of challenges, to laugh, to learn.

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