Success down under: The WFH 2014 World Congress in Melbourne

The WFH World Congress in Melbourne, Australia wrapped up on May 15 and the overwhelming sense from the over 4000 attendees from 128 different countries was that the event was a complete success. For over two years, the WFH and its partner Haemophilia Foundation Australia (HFA) had been working right up to the last minute to ensure the event would be memorable.

The foundational success of Congress began with a substantial medical and multi-disciplinary program presented by leading experts in hemophilia and other inherited bleeding disorders. Among the many program highlights was the opening plenary by WFH president Alain Weill setting the tone for a new era when he announced several significant multi-year agreements for unprecedented donations of blood clotting factor to the WFH representing a major step toward meeting its humanitarian aid goal for developing countries.

Congress was officially launched that same evening with an opening ceremony that featured a lineup of distinguished guests from the Minister for Health from the State of Victoria, the Honourable David Davis, who welcomed the global bleeding disorders community to Melbourne, WFH patron Jan Willem André de la Porte, the son of WFH founder, Frank Schnabel Jr, and 12 speakers representing the WFH global community from scientists and doctors to patients and advocates, who spoke of their experiences and hopes for the future.

While the previous Congress had focused on the 50th anniversary, the 2014 World Congress sought to cast an eye forward. This theme was central throughout the programs for the five-day event as each session spoke to how the community as a whole was moving forward toward the vision of treatment for all.

For HFA and its volunteers, Congress really opened their eyes to the global nature of the growing community. “I walked into the foyer and saw the flags from all the different countries,” said HFA Executive Director Sharon Caris, “and I thought, ‘Yes, this is a truly global organization.’ People have been coming up to me and saying, ‘Wow,’ so many stakeholders have come together to make this work.”

A Taste of Australia

On top of the scientific content, the city of Melbourne provided a wonderful backdrop and excellent host for the 2014 World Congress. Delegates (when not in sessions) were able to enjoy some unseasonably warm fall weather in Melbourne. The facilities at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) were a perfect fit for Congress, allowing for open scientific discourse in a comfortable setting. The MCEC location in the centre of the city was ideal as it was close to a host of bars, restaurants, and attractions for the after Congress hours sessions.

Attendees did not have to go far to enjoy a taste of Australia, when the World Congress played host to a fun-filled Aussie evening of entertainment in the form of costumed kangaroos, hissing king lizards, curious sea gulls, and alluring eucalyptus trees. The Taste of Australia event provided an excellent way for delegates to mingle with colleagues in a less formal environment and have a little fun in the process.

Working in Tandem

Overall, Congress left those in attendance with an overwhelming feeling of community. “For me, the feeling was best demonstrated where individual patients were willing, and sometimes keen, to share their personal experiences in a trusting and caring environment,” said Jonathan Spencer, president of Haemophilia Foundation Tasmania, in an article published in HFA’s July 2014 newsletter.

The WFH and our local hosts, HFA, thank all those of you that made the 2014 World Congress a resounding success. This success was reflected in the Congress evaluation forms, which were filled out post-Congress that gave the WFH 2014 World Congress the highest rating since evaluations were started in 2008. As a thank you for filling out the evaluation form the WFH offered up an Apple iPad to be won in a draw. The lucky winner was Professor Carl-Erik Dempfle of Mannheim Germany.

The 2014 World Congress provided participants the time to look back at all the accomplishments in the WFH’s 50 years and to take that first step into the future, looking ahead at all the breakthroughs to come in our goal of treatment for all. We hope you will join us from July 24-28, 2016 in Orlando, USA, for the next WFH World Congress.