The 2016 POGO Symposium on Childhood Cancer examined clinical and scientific advances in the diagnosis and treatment of leukemia in children and adolescents. This professional education event attracted an exceptional roster of internationally renowned childhood cancer healthcare practitioners to present on this topic, and scores of delegates—practising and emerging professionals alike. Among the latter were seven undergraduate and post-graduate students who attended on bursaries and subsequently shared their learnings and inspirations from this year’s event.
Here are excerpts from their recaps.
Networking at the POGO Symposium
“As I begin my graduate career, the opportunity to speak with scientists, nurses and allied health professionals in the field was incredibly helpful. I was informed of the variety of specializations I could follow, was given advice for career development, and started a network of connections to work with. Learning more about current research, and speaking to experts who share similar passions for their work, was incredibly inspiring! I left the Symposium feeling motivated in my work and connected to an amazing community of equally passionate healthcare professionals!”
-Jacqueline van Warmerdam, MSc Candidate, The Hospital for Sick Children & The University of Toronto
“Throughout my experience at the POGO Symposium, I was able to meet other nursing students, nurses, nurse educators and nurse managers. I was fortunate enough to sit at a table with a few oncology/haematology nurses that currently work at SickKids and was able to ask a lot of questions about their experience. I am excited to learn more as I pursue a career as a pediatric oncology nurse and look forward to future POGO Symposiums.”
-Mackenzie Heath, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Year 4, Western University
“This conference provided me with the opportunity to network with nurses who work on the unit which I aspire to work on, as well as be introduced to the unit manager of the unit which I hope to work on upon graduation. This conference provided incredible networking opportunities as a student nurse, and I was able to learn from my future RN colleagues and gain their insight into the coming months leading into my career.”
-Kealey Clarke, Collaborative Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program, Year 4, Western University/Fanshawe College
The Multifaceted Field of Pediatric Oncology
“Although leukemia brings many challenges, the conference emphasized the successes and acknowledged how far the field has come in terms of cure rate which was amazing to learn about. Dr. Nina Kadan-Lottick gave a wonderful talk on managing behavioural treatments that are observed during treatment. She emphasized the importance of quality of life and how this includes mental health. She talked a lot about providing psychosocial support and how there are upcoming interventions that are used to help provide that support to youth who may be experiencing anxiety. Dr. Sharon Guger discussed how leukemia is having impacts on attention, memory and learning and how this can impact quality of life post treatment. Another major area of focus was on future research and future targets for leukemia treatment. One talk that stood out the most was Dr. Stephan Grupp who discussed CAR-T Cell Therapy. This talk was full of innovation and demonstrated the future direction of leukemia treatment. Overall, the Symposium provided an educational, interesting and innovative series of talks that really impacted my knowledge and education surrounding the topic. I always love how the Symposium has a variety of speakers that cover many different perspectives. It shows the multidisciplinary approach to pediatric oncology and makes the field so unique.”
-Nini Nguyen, Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc), Child Health Specialization, McMaster University
“I specifically enjoyed the sessions on the psychosocial aspects of cancer treatment, with an emphasis on the family. The discussion on sleep habits during treatment of both parents and the patient was of particular interest to me. I also enjoyed the session on managing behaviour changes during treatment. I felt empowered by the specific nursing interventions that were suggested with respect to post-treatment distress in families undergoing childhood cancer treatment. This helped solidify one of the main messages I took away from the conference which was the quality of the cure…I feel very fortunate for this opportunity and look forward to attending the Symposium as a registered nurse next year.”
-Lisa Delanghe, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Year 4, University of Windsor
“The presentations taught me a lot about where we stand in the fight against childhood cancer. In particular, I found the opening talk by Dr. Sallan to be an engaging and informative start to the conference; this talk was the best way for someone without a lot of leukemia expertise to be quickly updated and set up for the other talks. I learned a lot about precision medicine which inspires me in my future goals to combine clinical practice with molecular research. Dr. Nathan’s talk on the late effects of childhood leukemia really helped me to understand the unique nature of childhood cancers and to comprehend the importance of reduction therapy and survivor care. The poster sessions were very helpful as I had the chance to share my summer research with healthcare professionals, receive their input and hone my presentation skills…I even got to see the results of studies I myself had participated in.”
-Hayley Insull, Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, Year 2, McGill University
“Without a doubt, the highlight of the weekend was being able to learn, first-hand, from world experts in the field of oncology. As someone who aspires to be a pediatric oncologist, it was so motivating to hear the journeys of these physicians and experts. It was especially inspiring to know that some of them have been witness to and participants in the immense strides that have been made in pediatric oncology (such as the increased survival rate in ALL), and humbling to hear that they still felt that they needed to do so much more.”
-Meghna Dua, Pediatrics Resident, Year 2, Western University
Knowledge Translation through Poster Presentations
“The posters were also an enjoyable part of the Symposium. It was fantastic being able to engage with students and supervisors through visual representations of their work. I was able to ask critical questions that deepened my understanding of their work but also helped to inform my own research questions and methodology. I hope to present a poster at next year’s Symposium and so I also took note of differences in layout and design of the posters.”
-Ashna Khanna, MSc Candidate, Clinical Research, Institute for Medical Science, University of Toronto
“Presenting at POGO was a great learning experience. As an undergraduate student, it was a phenomenal opportunity to practice my presenting skills and present on a project that I am passionate about. I was able to practice speaking in a professional manner with my target audience being informed healthcare professionals. I was able to disseminate knowledge regarding the iPeer2Peer Oncology project that I have been actively involved in and was able to connect some nurses with the principal investigator to potentially enrol current oncology patients at SickKids with a mentor in the iPeer2Peer program. I felt that this opportunity was a great knowledge translation experience and overall a great learning opportunity as an up and coming health professional and researcher.
-Carley Ouellette, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Year 4, Western University.