By Tara Fernandez (PDF), Rolinda Carter (PhD Student) and Bryan Lin (PhD Student)
Officially inaugurated in 2012, the Annual Norman Bethune Symposium celebrates Dr. Norman Bethune (1890-1939), a remarkable Canadian physician who worked tirelessly at the forefront of promoting universal access of health care and pioneered the first practical mobile blood collection and distribution system.
The 4th Annual Norman Bethune Symposium, which focused on HIV-related research in the morning and hemophilia and bleeding disorders talks in the afternoon, brought together visiting and local clinicians, researchers, and industry representatives. When asked about the greatest benefit in attending this symposium, four common themes stood out: the expansion of knowledge, the exchange of ideas, the possibility to network, and the potential of forming new collaborations. These were all exhibited throughout the day by passionate and engaging presentations by Drs. Steven Deeks, Priscilla Hsue, Deborah Money, Richard Harrigan, Hélène Côté, Victor Blanchette, Patrick Provost, Shannon Meeks, and Georges Etiénne Rivard.
Every year, 5 students and post-doctoral fellows are selected to give oral presentations at the Symposium. This year, these recipients were Julien Bergeron, Guinevere Lee, Matthew Budd, Erica Crilly, and Linda Sun. All these next generation researchers presented excellent data and a high level of enthusiasm for their projects. Among the standout talks, Julien Bergeron, a post-doctoral fellow from CBR’s Strynadka lab, presented his previous work investigating HIV-1 protein interactions and his current research on host-pathogen interactions and antibiotic resistance.
Throughout the breaks, attendees of the symposium were given a glimpse into the outstanding research being performed by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, through the 25 poster presentations showcased. A panel of dedicated judges worked hard to rank the high-quality research featured. Ultimately, Anthony Hsieh, a second-year PhD student from Dr. Hélène Côté’s lab, won the Best Poster prize. Anthony’s exceptional poster described his progress in characterizing markers of cellular aging in T-cell subsets from HIV-infected blood. Anthony, who is considering a future career in the public health industry, graciously thanked his lab mates for their support and help in the creation of the prize-winning poster.
The day ended with an engaging and entertaining talk by Dr. Georges-Etiénne Rivard on the Quebec Platelet Disorder. The audience was moved by the story of how a consultation with a gum bleed patient one Friday in 1979 led to incredible discoveries, from piecing together a family tree, to uncovering the Quebec Platelet Disorder. This story brought home the importance of forging collaborations, thinking outside the box and a commitment to helping patients – which reflect many of the ideals displayed by Norman Bethune himself.
The success of this year’s Norman Bethune Symposium has to be credited to everyone involved, from sponsors and speakers to audience participants and volunteers. All the attendees contributed to the lively atmosphere and undoubtedly enjoyed the Symposium proceedings thoroughly, while looking forward to future events.