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I’ve been attending and participating in the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) annual conference since I helped found the OCD Institute (OCDI) and joined the OCD Foundation Board of Directors in 1998. It’s an event I look forward to each summer, as it serves as a reunion of sorts for clinicians and researchers I have come to know well over my many years of practice. The conference has always been a unique event in that it brings together clinicians, patients and families for a weekend of education and bonding that is unlike any other academic conference. Unlike other conferences, where the patients and families being discussed are far removed from the environment, at the IOCDF conference they are right there, literally sitting next to you in the workshops and talks. They stop you in the hallways to ask you about new treatments or programs, introduce you to their family members, or follow up with a question from one of your workshops. It is this closeness of interaction that serves as a reminder to all of us on the professional side about why we do the work we do.
As a clinician, the conference is an unbelievably rich learning experience, with various tracks that serve the needs of new practitioners, researchers and seasoned clinicians alike. Presentations may be targeted towards research, specific patient age groups, or certain symptom sub-types. There are networking events, special interest groups and other meetings to bring like-minded groups together for the betterment of the field. It is a wonderful experience for students and trainees, as well as the most experienced clinicians.
As director of the OCDI, one of my most rewarding experiences at the conference is running into past patients, students, trainees and counselors who have all grown in various ways. This year I am so proud that the OCDI adult and child programs are the Presenting Sponsor for the conference. We have over 18 staff members giving talks or workshops, and four former OCDI residents also giving presentations! It is truly a testament to the expertise of the OCDI staff that so many of them have been chosen to present. I am even more excited about our former residents who will be sharing their personal stories. We are all so proud of them, as we know this is yet another step in their recovery.
The IOCDF conference is like a big, noisy family reunion. You see lots of people you only see once a year, you may be surprised at who shows up, you always learn something you didn’t know before you came, and you leave with a really warm feeling inside. For me, the best moments are when former patients or staff tells me that the OCDI was a life-changing experience for them. It’s amazing that we all share in a place that shapes our experience in such a profound way. I’m just glad that the IOCDF conference exists, so that we can all share it together.
Diane Davey, RN, MBA, is the program director of McLean’s OCD Institute.