resusTO: Not your typical medical conference

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resusTO: Not your typical medical conference

Toronto, September 25, 2019

By Jennifer Stranges

Dr. Christopher Hicks, chair of the resusTO conference
Dr. Christopher Hicks, chair of the resusTO conference

It’s clear that resusTO — a hybrid simulation-resuscitation conference organized in partnership with St. Michael’s Hospital — is different.

From branding inspired by a prolific southern California rapper, to a program that included an escape room simulating being inside an air ambulance, this year’s resusTO was boldly rejecting the conventions of medical education conferences.

“ResusTO is different from other conferences in that it’s very interactive,” said Dr. Christopher Hicks, an emergency physician and trauma team leader at St. Michael’s and chair of the conference. Dr. Hicks and Melissa McGowan, the research education co-ordinator for the St. Michael’s emergency department, collaboratively organized the conference, which took place on Sept. 10 and 11.

“Our plenary lectures delivered by the faculty are followed by some sort of hands-on workshop. It gives participants an opportunity to practice what they’ve learned so that it has more permanence carrying forward into their practice,” Dr. Hicks said.

Participants from around the world travelled to Toronto for this year’s conference, the follow up to last year’s highly successful inaugural event. Dr. Hicks, McGowan and the entire organizing committee feel gratified by the success and feedback they’ve received so far. For Dr. Hicks, living up to the hype of last year’s event was both exciting and intimidating.

“We didn’t want to be bigger — our numbers are at a sweet spot — it was about being better and extending what we were able to do,” he said.

“We wanted to recreate the magic of last year, and one of our goals was not to fall victim to the sophomore jinx.”

Participants from around the world at this year’s conference in Toronto
Participants from around the world at this year’s conference

Part of that magic was created by the teamwork of St. Michael’s staff, said McGowan.

“They say it takes a village, and to execute an innovative event like this, it really does,” she said. McGowan acknowledges the contributions of Emma O’Neil, Andrea Meeson, the Emergency Department and the team at the Allan Waters Family Simulation Centre – which is accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

The event was also made possible by staff from environmental services, AV, catering, medical media, clinical equipment, procurement, telecommunications, print shop, planning, and respiratory therapy and finally all the volunteers – many of whom took vacation from their day-to-day job at St. Michael’s to help make it a success.

Both also noted that the organizing committee strived for diversity in the faculty. Resident physicians from across the country were invited to compete to deliver a plenary lecture among an internationally-recognized faculty. Dr. James Gould, a fifth year emergency medicine resident at Dalhousie University, was selected as the winner.

This year’s conference was also attended by a special guest — an infant named Penny, who joined her mother, a participant.

While the conference was attended by 85 international participants over the two days, and 30 participants from the GTA took in one of four three hour pre-conference workshops, all course content was distributed open access via social media afterwards, amplifying the reach of the educational sessions.

At its core, resusTO is about challenging health care providers and inspiring them to think beyond their current practice, said Dr. Hicks. He believes the conference engages the medical community in a novel way, which would not be possible without support from hospital leadership.

“There is a true commitment to medical education and medical innovation at St. Michael’s.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About Unity Health Toronto

Unity Health Toronto, comprised of Providence Healthcare, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital, works to advance the health of everyone in our urban communities and beyond. Our health network serves patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education. For more information, visit

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