WAIMH Executive Director Corner

Photo: WAIMH Executive Director, Kaija Puura

Dear colleagues and friends,

The year 2021 has started with an ongoing struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, where some countries and areas are practically virus-free and some areas where lockdowns with restrictions are still needed. In my previous welcome address, I was still hopeful that we would all have been vaccinated against the virus by June 2021 and could come together in Brisbane, but this clearly is not possible in the current situation. However, it turns out that postponing the Congress for a year did give us time to prepare for all the possible scenarios we anticipated in 2020. Sometimes our monthly zoom-meetings with the excellent team in Australia, chairs of the Local Organizing Committee, Elisabeth Hoehn and Libby Morton, Emma Taylor from the professional congress organizer and WAIMH President Campbell Paul have been quite hair-raisingly worrying with discussions on sudden lockdowns in different parts of Australia, and what to do if that happens just prior to the Congress.

In these discussions, the team has shown its capacity to be truly creative and found ways to be prepared for every possibility.  What now looks likely is that in June 2021 Australia and New Zealand will be allowing larger gatherings, and participants from those regions will be able to attend the Congress in person. For participants from other continents and regions, we will offer participation in the Congress as an on-line event. In case there is a sudden lockdown in Australia, we are fully prepared to organize the Congress completely on-line with very short notice. At this point, I can say with certainty that we WILL have the 17th World Congress of the WAIMH in Brisbane either as a hybrid Congress or an online-Congress, and we are looking forward to meeting as many of you as possibly face-to-face and those of you who cannot be on-site, we hope to meet on-line.

As it became clear that most of the Congress program would have to be online and pre-recorded, we have tried to figure out ways to include live interaction in every way that we can. The program schedule is built with careful consideration concerning different time zones. For the on-site attendees, there will be a live program during the day. The plenaries and masterclasses are live presentations scheduled to the program so that people in every time zone will be able to see at least something live without having to be up in the middle of the night.

As all the plenary sessions will also be recorded, those taking place at an unsuitable time can be watched later. We have also tried to build in possibilities for the audience to interact with the presenters with chat and live Q and A times that can be seen in the program. It will not be the same as being there in person, but we hope that these little things will allow at least some interaction between the presenters and the audience.

In my previous welcome, I wrote how much I looked forward to the possibility of seeing you all in person and being able to share experiences and many smiles and laughs with you. For those of you who can be onsite at the Brisbane WAIMH Congress, I send my warmest wishes and hope that you will enjoy seeing friends and new acquaintances. I miss that opportunity now even more, but live in the hope that we will meet again, “don´t know how, don´t know when, but I know we´ll meet again some sunny day…” Until then let us wash our hands, keep each other safe and get together one way or another at the 17th WAIMH World Congress in June 2021.

With warmest wishes to you all,