Vancouver was named host city of the 2015 World Congress of Dermatology, which is expected to attract upwards of 15,000 delegates – one of the city’s biggest conferences to date. Local dermatologists Dr. Harvey Lui and Dr. Jerry Shapiro partnered with the Be a Host program to plan, compile, submit a comprehensive bid that ultimately won over the voting committee.
Below, Dr. Lui draws back the curtain and shares his insights on bid wins and Vancouver’s increasing appeal among international associations.
Vancouver will host the prestigious 2015 World Congress of Dermatology which is expected to attract 15,000 delegates. If it wasn't for the hard work of local hosts Dr. Harvey Lui and Dr. Jerry Shapiro, this likely would not have happened.
Dr. Lui has been the Medical Director of The Skin Care Centre, the Lions Laser Skin Centre, and the Psoriasis & Phototherapy Clinic since 1994. He is also the Head of the Department of Dermatology and Skin Science at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Shapiro was awarded fellowship status in Dermatology by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Canada. Dr. Shapiro is currently a Clinical Professor in the Department of Dermatology and Skin Science University of British Columbia.
We had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Dr. Lui about his efforts to bring the 2015 World Congress of Dermatology to Vancouver and the desired outcomes for him and his colleagues and for the field of Dermatology in Metro Vancouver.
What fuels your passion for dermatology?
My entrance into dermatology was largely driven by those who work in the field. During my residency, I met several medical practitioners but was particularly drawn to the dermatologists I spoke to. I also wanted to be a specialist, not a generalist - some people like to know a lot of things, but I prefer to focus on a specific problem and see it through to the very end. Finally, I like the variety of patients: children, babies, women and men - dermatology is one of the few specialty fields where you see the full spectrum. It's a fascinating field. I'm a very visual person, and in dermatology you can actually see the disease with your own eyes rather than having to rely on technology to see for you.
What inspired you to bid for the 2015 World Dermatology Congress?
Here at the University of British Columbia, my colleagues and I conduct research, practice and teach - but we also travel to conferences quite frequently, where we interact with our peers from around the world. We've been hosted by many people and cities over the years, and have enjoyed their hospitality. So I thought, "We can and should extend that same hospitality here in Vancouver." Our decision to bid for the World Congress was partly out of gratitude to our fellow practitioners, but we also wanted to share our city with them.
What made you decide to work with Tourism Vancouver's Be A Host program?
That's easy. This was our third attempt bidding on the World Congress. The first was back in the 80s, and the more recent bid was 10 years ago. The committee brought in Tourism Vancouver during the last bid, but not until late in the process - they should have been involved a lot earlier. For a variety of reasons we didn't win that bid, but there were a lot of great ideas that came together late in the game. We realized if we had implemented these sooner we could have been successful, and that if we were going to try again we had to get the pros in right away. So this time, we contacted Tourism Vancouver right at the beginning and received lots of advice and support from the Be A Host team. They dissected and analyzed our previous bids, telling us what we needed to do differently this time around and offering suggestions and strategies. And it worked.
Clearly! What do you think won the bid?
What won it for us in the end was the personalized approach. To be frank, there's a lot of politics involved in putting together these bids, and Tourism Vancouver told us if we didn't connect one-on-one with as many voters as possible we were sunk. So we focused on the personal approach, going out and meeting people and asking for their advice on how we could improve. That was important: not only did we receive helpful feedback, but we were also able to gauge who was on our side.
What about Vancouver attracts the world? Why do people want to come here?
That's the thing - Vancouver kind of sells itself. In fact, I was surprised at how ready people are to come here. I mean, think about it: can you die without seeing Vancouver? Sure. But marketing also shows that people who have an excuse to come here will do so in a heartbeat. Vancouver is safe, clean and multicultural, and we have a world-class convention centre plus amazing hotels… selling the city was gravy. No one said, "You don't have Rome's coliseum or Austria's Mozart history." They just said, "We like what you have. If the congress takes place in Vancouver, we'll go."
You research, teach and sit on several major boards. How do you find the time to organize a world-wide conference?
I question my sanity [laughs]. We work through it. It's a challenge, but as long as people are happy in the end, I'm happy. Would I do it over again, if I had the chance? Absolutely. I'm busy, sure, but it's a good problem to have.
What are your goals for the congress?
We have many. First, to provide a unique experience that allows attendees to say, "The practice of dermatology was enhanced and furthered by this congress. I got something out of this that I wouldn't have had I not attended." Annual meetings are held all the time, but the World Congress takes place every four years - it's special. Each congress has been different, and has made a distinct contribution to the field. That's what we want for the Vancouver conference. The second goal is for Canadian dermatology to become more recognized on a global level. We have around 650 dermatologists across Canada, and though that isn't a lot I want people to recognize the value we contribute to the speciality.
How many delegates do you expect?
15,000. But we hope to attract well beyond that number!
How will hosting the World Congress of Dermatology affect the practice in Vancouver?
We have an extremely strong program that's recognized nationwide. In fact, our program at UBC is the only standalone department of its kind in Canada - elsewhere, dermatology is a subdivision. We're hoping people will see there's a lot of international expertise that resides here. Our city is actually home to a lot of world-recognized firsts - the idea for Botox came from a doctor based in Vancouver, for example. A lot of impactful work is being done here, and when delegates from around the world arrive they'll see what we're up to. I think that's a good thing for all of us.
What kind of impact will the 2015 World Congress make to the field of dermatology?
A lot goes on at these conferences. We'll discuss new treatments, medications, procedures… And keep in mind that a lot of what we do relates to quality of life, not just cosmetic issues. For example, chronic skin diseases can have medical, social and psychological effects - it's a major and often long-lasting impact. Skin patients usually don't get the sort of empathy that other patients do. I'm hoping the congress will help spread awareness of the devastating and potentially life-threatening impacts of these diseases - we'll discuss these issues at the conference, as well.
Would you like to share any final thoughts?
When we began the bidding process, I thought the fact that we're from Vancouver would be the biggest obstacle against us. Are we a world-class city, or do we just call ourselves that? I hate to say it, but I thought this would be a weakness - but no one ever said we weren't big enough or good enough to hold this major conference. We were up against the likes of Vienna and Rome, but we didn't need to sell the city - people want to come here. I would tell anyone thinking of hosting similar conferences in Vancouver to avoid thinking we're not on par with other world-class cities. People want to come here. Just give them a reason, and they'll come.
> If you're interested in becoming a local host or are already bringing a conference to Vancouver and are in need of our services, contact the Be a Host team..