Rontu Sangma, Pallium India’s Regional Coordinator- North East India, writes:
The 27th International Conference of Indian Association of Palliative Care (IAPCON 2020) was held at my hometown of Guwahati from February 14th to 16th. The Conference was organised at Guwahati Medical College under the leadership of Dr Dinesh Goswami and Dr Arun Deka as organizing chairperson and organizing secretary respectively. This was the second time in the history of IAPCON that North-East India was chosen to host the event.
The North East is known for its hospitality, cultural and gastronomic richness and biodiversity. Though remote and hard to reach as compared to mainland India, healthcare in the region is gradually improving thanks to new hospitals and medical colleges. However, access to pain relief and quality palliative care remains a huge challenge. As the regional coordinator of Pallium India’s national outreach program in the North East, I work with government, policy makers, public and private healthcare providers, civil society and most importantly patients and their care givers to promote palliative care in the region.
I have been preparing for the conference since August 2019 as I saw it as an opportunity to bring together and galvanize the palliative care fraternity in the region as well as to follow up Pallium India’s past work in the region. I met Dr. Arun Deka (HoD, Dept. of Pain & Palliative Care, SCI) at HM Hospital, Guwahati in August 2019. He was warm and receptive and later on his demand, he along with his team was introduced to Pallium India team at Trivandrum. Subsequently I met Dr. Kabindra Bhagabati (Medical Officer PCU) of Dr. B. Borooah Cancer Institute, Guwahati, as I went to attend their ‘Nursing Workshop in Palliative Care’. In that workshop, I also got the opportunity to meet Dr.Dinesh Goswami, CEO of Guwahati Pain & Palliative Care Society and organizing chairperson of IAPCON 2020. This meeting was a breakthrough in my advocacy and outreach work in the region as I was able to build a strong professional bond with leading stakeholders in the region and was henceforth invited to become part of future workshops and meetings in the region. Later on, I was invited to be part of the IAPCON organizing committee.
On the one hand, I enjoy planning events, co-ordinating, and following up on working plans, and constantly researching and providing solutions to problems that arise along the way. It was a great personal and professional experience interacting with the conference participants. A total of 750 delegates including 27 foreign nationals attended the conference. I was also thrilled and delighted to touch base with palliative care professionals from Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur and Mizoram whom I had met earlier.
It is heartening to note that Palliative Care is growing in the North East region. Looking back, participating in an international conference organising committee was nerve-wracking and time-consuming; yet it was exciting and full of positive experiences. Now that the conference is over and people are back to their work, I look forward to applying new lessons learned and contacts established in my work.