The Summer Educational Sessions

By: Amanda Iannaccio

Bringing CSHP Members Together from 1947 to 2015

The 68th and final Summer Educational Sessions (SES) began with the Opening Reception on Saturday, August 15, 2015 at The Westin in Ottawa, Ontario.  Members gathered around the room eagerly making connections and catching up with old friends.  I came across Emily Musing, Valerie Fong, Deb Van Haaften, Lauza Saulnier and a few other members in one corner of the room happily exchanging shared memories and inside jokes.  Valerie Fong pointed out that if it wasn’t for SES, they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet in quite the same way and form such close bonds.  “SES brought us together.”  Indeed, as I interviewed several people over the next few days, I learned just how effective CSHP’s summer conference has been in creating bonds for life.  These connections have not only enriched people’s lives personally, but professionally as well.  “You build relationships with people in the profession whom you can later connect with on a particular project or issue, because you met them at SES.  They’re not faceless anymore. It’s good for your practice and the profession,” Patricia Macgregor said.  So how did SES become what Bill Wilson referred to as “[…] the best networking conference for hospital pharmacists in the country”?

SES was initially known as the Annual Meeting where strategic planning occurred, meetings were held, and educational sessions and social events followed.  Initially, the educational sessions mostly focused on managerial practice because of the group of people attending at the time.  Over the years, clinical sessions were introduced to broaden participation by encouraging more members and frontline practitioners to attend.  In 1995, it was renamed the Annual General Meeting and Educational Sessions until 2009, when it was changed to SES – a name that stuck until the 68th and final SES.  “We actually put up a flip chart in the hospitality suite and asked everyone to pick a name that made some sense,” Richard Jones told me of the 2009 name change.  While, at the time, he did not think the name adequately emphasized the significant networking aspect of SES, he conceded that it turned out to be a decent name because SES has provided an outlet for idea generation through discussions often sparked by the educational sessions and events taking place.  “With so many leaders in hospital pharmacy attending, SES has been helpful in developing standards and things to take back to the office and work on that have really benefitted the Society.” The educational sessions have also provided members with the opportunity to be exposed to different aspects of hospital pharmacy.  “I have had the chance to learn about areas of practice that are outside of my wheelhouse,” Bonita Witt said.  “You get to ask questions in real time and hear about how specific issues in hospital pharmacy are being dealt with by colleagues.  You see where each region is at and gage your approach, which allows you to identify where you can improve in your practice,” she continued.  But the really special thing about SES is that because it was held over several days with daily sessions and social events planned, it brought people together in a unique way.  Toni Bailie explained why SES has been so effective in connecting members: “We go together as a group; we go to the educational sessions as a group; we go to the social events as a group; it really enhances the networking opportunities.  I’ve always told people that I can email somebody in every single province and I am assured of an answer, because of the wonderful relationships I’ve developed here at SES.”  Mits Miyata added that he thought it was a perfectly sized conference because “it’s not so large that you get lost in it, but it’s small enough that it’s very personable.”

The other unique aspect of SES is that it travelled around the country.  Several members I spoke with really enjoyed the fact that because of SES, they’ve had the opportunity to visit and learn about every province in Canada.  The host committees have worked hard to showcase the best of what their region has to offer and members have been thrilled to discover surprising gems. “In Saskatchewan, they had The Sky’s the Limit theme because of their incredible night sky; it had an amazing number of stars, which I would not have known about otherwise.  I’ve even come to love Acadian music, because it was part of the entertainment when we were in Halifax,” Toni Bailie said.

CSHP’s industry corporate supporters have also enjoyed attending SES, because it has provided them with a broad audience and a great opportunity to network. “It’s a summer meeting and because it moved around the country, you’d get different people coming to this conference.  You’d have the local people and the people who travelled across the country to be there.  It’s always nice being able to speak to a large audience,” remarked Richard Leiskau from Pendopharm. In addition, industry representatives have really been made to feel like an integral part of the Society at SES.  Ky To from Teva agreed that the interaction between industry representatives and pharmacists has been a large benefit of SES, and the social events have facilitated building those relationships. “The events have always been fun and well organized. For me, Fun Night has been the best part of SES, because everyone is relaxed and having a good time.”  Ky To even suggested that CSHP “put the fun night into PPC,” which, I’ll admit, has a nice ring to it.

When I asked people what they would miss most now that SES was coming to a close, it came down to losing the opportunity to connect with a community of like-minded individuals gathered in a common place.  I witnessed just how much members enjoyed interacting with one another at several SES social events.  They bonded over Fun Night karaoke at the Canadian Museum of Nature and danced the night away at the Past Presidents’ Dinner and Dance.  While these happenings may seem insignificant on the surface, the reality is that these are the very moments when formality melts away and genuine bonds are created that last a lifetime.  SES has been a place where CSHP members have had the opportunity to enjoy the company of colleagues.  It has created an environment where they have felt welcomed and encouraged by the work they have seen their colleagues in the profession doing.  At the Closing Reception, Don Kuntz said that “CSHP won’t be the same without SES,” and while he is absolutely right, the people who have been attending remain part of this association of collegial people who will continue to do excellent work.  CSHP may be different now that SES is gone, but as Glen Pearson poignantly noted: “We’ll move on and continue to impress.”

Amanda Iannaccio had only been working for CSHP for a few weeks at the time of SES 2015.  While attending, she was struck by the camaraderie of CSHP members and wrote this article to capture what it was like to experience SES as someone new to the association, while gathering people’s thoughts on what it has meant to them to attend SES over the years. Amanda has significant experience as a writer and editor and has been working in the health care field managing several publications for over five years.