BY DR. CHARLES HELM and HEATHER GUMMOW
The second “3D conference” – Drugs, Dinos and Dinner – was held in Tumbler Ridge from May 25–27. Nearly 70 physicians, pharmacists, paramedics and nurses registered, a number that swelled to 120 at the Saturday evening banquet with the inclusion of spouses and families. This was probably the largest ever medical gathering in northeast B.C.
Conference participants were treated to ten hours of stimulating talks, featuring Tom Perry, Rita McCracken, Cait O’Sullivan, and Emma Reid of the Therapeutics Initiative, a UBC-based think-tank that rigorously analyzes evidence on which medications work and which don’t. “Deprescribing” was emphasized – trying to get by with fewer medications and eliminating those that may be harmful. Dr. Stuart Johnston provided a talk on hand injuries and conducted a practical workshop on tendon repair and skin flaps (using pigs’ legs), and Dr. Trevor Campbell spoke engagingly on non-drug treatment of chronic pain. Five exhibitor booths provided for extra learning opportunities, all completely free of pharmaceutical industry involvement.
So far, that’s not too unusual for a northern B.C. medical conference, but many similarities end there. Firstly, there was no registration fee for the 3D conference. Each northern BC community is entitled to Community Funds to devote to educational activities. The Tumbler Ridge physicians decided to use all of their reverted funds to create this regional conference of benefit to all, which physician groups in Fort St John, Dawson Creek, Valemount, McBride and Northern Health then generously supported, aided by a much appreciated donation from Conuma Coal.
Secondly, the palaeo theme reigned supreme, with the welcome supper served amid dinosaur attractions that are available nowhere else in BC. The Dinosaur Discovery Gallery was in ‘idling mode’ due to lack of funding, but Dr. McCrea, Dr. Buckley, and staff, all of whom had recently had their positions terminated due to the Museum funding situation, came in and conducted participants though four stations: the gallery, collections, preparation lab, and photogrammetry lab. Field trips followed to a dinosaur footprint site, a birding excursion, and a hike to the end of the magnificent Titanic Rock (expertly guided by the president of the local hiking club).
Thirdly, ‘payback’ for medical residents involved a team of ten working on the hiking trails immediately after the conference, chain-sawing deadfall and throwing it off the trail, thus contributing to the comfort of visitors and tourists to Tumbler Ridge.
Draws were held for spots on three jet-boats for tours to Kinuseo Falls, and the lucky winners had the privilege of seeing this great waterfall in full spate. Add in live violin music, a live band, a local comedian (the famous ‘Aunt Lizzie’), morning fitness runs, Float Fit and Tabatha classes in the pool, and all-in-all a unique learning environment was created, cementing the reputation of Tumbler Ridge as a conference destination with a special ambience.
Southern African physicians have contributed enormously to rural health care in BC over the past decades, and two short slideshows featured different aspects of this part of the world: clinics in Zimbabwe and fossil human footprints in South Africa. However, perhaps the most unexpected part of the conference happened later, after the banquet. Dr. Tom Perry, gravely concerned about the funding challenges of the dinosaur museum (with $50,000 needed in order to re-open) worked the crowd. Within a quarter of an hour $19,000 had been pledged, helping the museum significantly towards its goal!
As for the kids, it was all about Dinosaur Camp! Recently employed museum staff Debbie Gainor and Tammy Pigeon provided them with an unforgettable experience through two mornings of dinosaur crafts, microscope demonstration of dinosaur bones and teeth, using scribe tools, tours of parts of the museum that the public doesn’t get to see, and the making and painting of plaster casts of dinosaur tracks which they were able to take home as keepsakes.
At the end of a memorable weekend, participant evaluation forms reflected the high satisfaction rate for the conference, along with a much-heard sentiment: Can we please do 3D again in 2019?