The University of Toronto Psychopharmacology Conference moves online and finds a wider audience

Nov 26, 2020

Over the last eight months we’ve all become accustomed to online meetings. We’ve gone from shaking hands to sending emojis and abandoned international flights in favour of makeshift workstations in bedrooms or dens.

While this new approach to meetings poses plenty of challenges, it also offers opportunities. This year, the University of Toronto Annual Psychopharmacology Conference was held online for the first time. The annual event addresses pharmacotherapy across the life cycle of a number of mental disorders.

The online event proved a resounding success, attracting a record 360 attendees. Hosting the conference online meant that attendees no longer needed to worry about hotels and flights, making the event more accessible than ever before.

“Presenting the conference online extended its reach, since hotel and flights are no longer a concern,” says Paula Paunic, the Administrative Assistant, Faculty Development and CPPD in the Department of Psychiatry. “We welcomed attendees from BC to Nova Scotia, and all over the world, including the U.S., the U.K., Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and Oman.”

The event also attracted a new audience beyond the established psychiatrists who traditionally have made up the bulk of its attendees. “This year, a third of attendees were allied professionals and another third were residents, fellows, or undergraduate students – a great turn out from those groups,” says Paunic.

The event was the result of a collaborative effort. The Planning Committee, consiting of Dr. Diana Kljenak, Dr. Javed Aloo, Chris Meledes, Dr. Benoit H. Mulsant, Dr. Raj Rasasingham, and Dr. Peter Selby, oversaw the transition to an online format, envisioning what shape the virutal version of the conference would take. Dr. Mulsant, in his role as Labatt Family Chair of the Department of Psychiatry, and Dr. Sanjeev Sockalingham, Vice Chair, Education, provided the support needed to make this vision a reality.

In addition to Paula Paunic, the transition to virtual was facilitated by the Department’s Business Manager, Chris Meledes, and the Discovery Commons AV team.

As a member of the Planning Committee and a speaker, Dr. Peter Selby saw the benefits technology brought to the conference firsthand.

"Online formats make it easy for busy clinicians to participate especially during this pandemic," says Dr. Selby. "My hope is that the excellent updates will help participants enhance their treatment options to reduce suffering caused by mental illness and addiction."

The event included faculty speakers sharing their expertise on a number of topics. Plenaries by Drs. Janet Ellis, Andrea Iaboni, Abigail Ortiz, Arun Ravindran, and Peter Selby covered pharmacotherapy and medication management in a wide variety of contexts.

“I am very grateful for the support of our faculty for making our event a success,” says Dr. Raj Rasasingham. As the Department’s Director of Continuing Professional and Practice Development, he’s thrilled by the success of this year’s event.

“We were delighted to have attendees from all over the world at this virtual conference,” says Dr. Rasasingham, “It was a great opportunity to highlight the innovative work our faculty are doing in psychopharmacology.”

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