For the first time ever, our National Conference on Hydrocephalus, HA CONNECT, was held entirely online. A record 2,016 people from 72 countries participated in our virtual sessions and connected through our HA CONNECT mobile app, proving that not even COVID-19 can dampen the spirts and enthusiasm of the hydrocephalus community.
We made the decision to go virtual in early April, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to our conference sponsors, we were able to make HA CONNECT free of charge. This, plus the fact that it was held virtually, allowed more people to participate and enabled our U.S community to meet others impacted by hydrocephalus from all parts of the world.
“We were initially very disappointed about not being able to connect in a live space…then we realized we could have these amazing connections with individuals from all corners of the world,” said Diana Gray, HA’s President and CEO, during the opening session. “By having a virtual conference we are able to bring this exciting content to many who would not have otherwise been able to attend.”
HACONNECT, held June 26-27, offered a wide range of sessions featuring over 25 speakers including world-renowned medical professionals, scientists, and other experts. Participants learned about the latest research on hydrocephalus, received helpful tools to navigate the daily challenges of the condition, and formed lasting connections with others through the official HACONNECT app.
Whether it was an introduction to mindfulness techniques or an overview of medical care transition for teens, HACONNECT featured a session for everyone, with tracks for adults living with hydrocephalus or Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, parents, and teens. The Robert Pudenz Lectureship featuring new research by Young Investigators, hosted by Dr. J. Gordon McComb, stood out as a highlight of the first day. The session showcased exciting hydrocephalus research being conducted by the brightest emerging scientists in the field. Other highly-attended sessions of the first day included the session on “Chronic Headaches and Hydrocephalus: When it’s Not the Shunt,” and “Brain Matters: Hydrocephalus 101,” where Drs. James McAllister and Marion (Jack) Walker, from HA’s Medical Advisory Board, took participants on a journey through the brain.
One of the high points of the second day was a panel of young adults answering questions from teenagers about living with hydrocephalus. The wonderful young adult panelists spoke from their own teenage experiences with hydrocephalus and advised teenagers to “Be an advocate for yourself, lean on your support team, and live life to the fullest!”
The conversations and connections made through the HACONNECT app were exciting to see. Many people reconnected with old friends or made new ones through the app’s various “community walls.”
“It is the first time I have heard from others the emotions and experiences we have felt and had – validating that what we are going through is real. We don’t have these resources in our country, but you have inspired and fueled me to become an advocate for Hydro and my beautiful daughter,” said participant Vicky Blanford.
On behalf of all of us at the Hydrocephalus Association, THANK YOU for making the 2020 conference amazing and we look forward to seeing everyone in Houston in 2022!
If you were not able to attend the conference, recordings of all sessions will be available for purchase. We are bundling all of the sessions in each track for $20.20 per track. Stay tuned for details.