As the dust settles…. WCDEM Part I

It began with giving our introductions around a table during a small group session – a meeting happening prior to the official start of the conference. After names were spouted off, a one-line summary was offered describing some of the things each individual cared enough about to come to Cape Town, South Africa to share with other delegates.

To paraphrase, the first person began with “I helped control the spread of Ebola in West Africa…” and next “I was the chief officer for public health during the London 2012 Olympic Games…” and then “I was the medical director for the 2010 FIFA World Cup…” etc. etc.

As it continued around the table I realized very quickly that there was an extraordinary league of people surrounding me. By the time it was my turn, all I could say through a grin was, “Hi I’m Riley, and I’m really happy to be here.”

IMG_3310      RileyCapePoint

The World Congress of Disaster and Emergency Medicine (WCDEM) included an amazing line up of front-line researchers. As a medical student, I can only hope that one day I’ll be making ripples on policy, practice, and people in the same way that many of these successful individuals have. For now, I just took everything in – research at a macro to microscopic scale being done across the globe.

My particular contribution, a co-presentation with Dr. Brendan Munn titled “Harm Reduction & Medical Services at Shambhala, a Five Day Electronic Dance Music Event,” was a zoomed in focus at a Mass Gathering with broader implications of Harm Reduction being explored.

It was a talk delivered among 10 others that morning – each teams’ research a unique perspective to discover best practices for the Mass Gathering engine. Some described how to build the car, others how the car broke down, some the best features of the car, and some even described what we ought to be thinking of conceptually when we think of a car.

What I liked most was how our talk and many others were mentioned within the discussions other researchers brought forward. Specifically, it was a genuinely cooperative exercise – a time to make bridges between some of the silos we’ve historically done research in. These moments and the conversations that followed make me excited for WCDEM Toronto 2017. I hope to look back and be encouraged by the progress whose roots were planted in Cape Town!


Riley Golby
Medical Student Year II
UBC MGM Club Executive