I was introduced to the Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Conference (APHC) and was encouraged to participate with a poster presentation by my mentor. My maiden voyage to this conference significantly broadened my perspective and deepened my understanding.
APHC 2023 took place at Songdo Convensia in South Korea from the 4th till the 7th October 2023. It began with pre-conference workshops covering a range of interesting topics like paediatric palliative care, leadership skills, a research forum and communication for life-sustaining treatments. Notably, to accommodate the global participants, some workshops were conducted in Chinese, Korean, and English. I had the privilege of participating in the workshop that focused on the integration of palliative care into intensive care unit. The speakers shared their experience, challenges and successes in pioneering this service. The session concluded with interactive role-play sessions designed for handling complex communication situations. Throughout the workshop, there was a constant reminder in the air that, ‘There is much to be done, there is much to be done’.
The main conference began over the next three days and it was truly remarkable. A crowd of 1257 delegates from 27 countries attended and actively participated in the 50 planned sessions, which included workshops, keynotes, plenaries, booth exhibitions, and both oral and poster presentations. The conference’s multicultural and multinational makeup added vibrancy to the event. Despite our varied background, everyone shared a universal language of care.
The plenaries were organised around the theme of expanding horizons in palliative care in the new era. They featured a diverse group of international speakers, each hailing from different professional backgrounds and specialties. One plenary that particularly struck me was delivered by Professor Dr. Amy Chow from the University of Hong Kong. She shared insights about a multidimensional need-based bereavement intervention. This presentation highlighted the importance of incorporating local culture and beliefs into care model and underscored how perseverance has driven continuous improvements in care. Concurrent workshops offered a wealth of choices for attendees. The organizers had prepared a comprehensive program book and compiled all the presentations online, accessible through a QR-code scan. This ensured that the delegates could maximise their conference experience. Besides that, I enjoyed the reflective discussions that took place during mealtime with my Malaysian colleagues, following our participation in various workshops. I observed the conference placed a significant emphasis on fostering compassionate communities and strengthening primary healthcare. Overall, the conference’s grand hall is filled to capacity, echoing with conversations and ideas, creating a dynamic environment for collaboration and networking, all in the collective effort to advance and advocate for palliative care.
During the conference, the Sarawak palliative care community took the initiative to host an exhibition booth, prepared posters, videos, lucky draws and performed Poco-poco dance in traditional costumes. The synergistic effort in displaying the beauty of Borneo stole the heart of many delegates and we extended a cordial invitation to the attendees to join us for the upcoming APHC 2025. The conference is championed by the Sarawak Government via the Tourism Board, Jabatan Kesihatan Negeri Sarawak personnel, Sarawak General Hospital Director, representatives from various hospitals, Non-Governmental Organizations and Hospices across Sarawak. It will be hosted at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching, Sarawak from April 23rd to 26th 2025 with the theme ‘Embracing Diversity, Empowering Communities’.
A seed was sown during the conference, perhaps while listening to the passionate plenaries, or wrapped in the well-constructed lecture, or perusing the 487 abstracts presented. It might have taken root during the inspiring Cynthia Goh Palliative Care Fellowship award ceremony. I like to believe that it sprouted during the thought-provoking idea exchange after the sessions or while participating in the Ganggangsullae at the Gala night, or even during the group jog at the Central Park on a cold morning. On a personal level, I found great enjoyment in forming a new camaraderie with a palliative nurse from a neighboring country. The short yet deep conversation we shared left me humbled and revitalised.
If there is room for improvement in the symposium experience, if not already perfect, it would be to consider allowing electronic poster presentation. Additionally, I propose organising breakout sessions among the delegates to facilitate self-directed group sharing and discussion, fostering exciting ideas and conversations. Lastly, I eagerly anticipate more young bloods joining the conference in the future.
As I board the plane bound for home, despite the dark eye bags, I feel light on my feet and my heart warmed with inspiration. I applaud the Korean team for conducting the conference successfully. I would like to express my gratitude to the Malaysian Hospice and Palliative Care Council for providing grant for my trip. At the same time, I truly look forward to the APHC 2025 in Kuching, Malaysia. I have no doubt that it will be as wonderful, if not better.