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Pierce County Survivorship Conference goes Virtual during COVID-19

Pierce County Survivorship Conference goes Virtual during COVID-19

We’re proud to again support the small, local non-profit Cancer Survivorship NW, which puts on the Pierce County Survivorship Conference. The Center is a sponsor and exhibitor at the virtual conference being held on August 5. Registration is free and required in order to attend the Zoom meetings. Register here.

JoAnne Fletcher has been organizing the Pierce County Survivorship Conference – which sees about 250 attendees and features scores of speakers on many different topics – for the past 12 years. She and her husband John were approached by a friend, Jaime Dobosz, from their days of volunteering for Relay for Life, about participating in the inaugural conference.  Jaime and other cancer advocates started the conference because they found that there wasn’t anything else filling the role in the South Sound.

Now they have a committee comprised of healthcare workers, dedicated retirees and survivors such as JoAnne and John from around the region. The committee works hard to find speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors each year, starting around February. In the past, when the conference was in-person, it involved a lot of hands-on work. This year, however, the Survivorship Conference will be held virtually, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the compromised health of many of the attendees. “It was a little scary and unsettling to try to figure out how to have the conference this year,” says JoAnne, “but with our great committee, especially our Board President Rachael Costner, and our consultant Cheree Royster, it’s coming along. We hope we get the numbers. But if we help even one person, it will be well worth it.”

Jamie with two volunteers who transported attendees around the University of Puget Sound campus during last year's conference.

Board president Rachel Costner chairs a table at last year's conference. 

While they briefly considered canceling this year’s conference, they felt they would let down their community of survivors. So they figured out how to make the whole conference virtual. Their web and marketing consultants were a great help. After much research, they chose to hold the conference on a web app called Whova (see more info below), and present live speakers via Zoom. Since they cannot put up flyers at healthcare facilities around the area this year, they’ve been pushing out their notices via email to past attendees, social media, and a postcard campaign. They’ve had to reinvent the wheel on practically everything.

However, they will still host an impressive line-up of speakers, including eight who will speak live via Zoom, and 13 additional speakers who have been pre-recorded. During the live part, an emcee and moderators will facilitate question-and-answer sessions for each speaker. In order not to make the virtual experience overwhelming, they are keeping the live portion of the event to four hours. However, all the content – speakers as well as exhibitors - will remain on their website until next year’s conference. This year their keynote speaker will be Dr. Tony Blau, who founded All4Cure after 27-years as a Professor of Medicine/Hematology and physician scientist at the University of Washington. At the UW he founded the Center for Cancer Innovation, which brings together a distributed network of investigators to help patients with advanced cancer. He co-founded the UW Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine. He also chaired the Molecular and Cellular Hematology Study Section for the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Blau is currently facing his own cancer challenge and will speak about his experience with multiple myeloma. In addition, he and his wife, Dr. Sibel Blau, who is a cancer specialist herself, will talk about the importance of Clinical Trials.

“We have some incredible recorded and live speakers, and I am excited for all of them,” says JoAnne. “I especially love Sarah Taylor, who is a dear friend of mine and has been a past speaker at our conference. She was just diagnosed with a Stage IV glioblastoma at age 47. She is an incredible speaker, communicating so openly and from the heart about brain cancer. You will find her in the pre-recorded sessions.”

You can find the line-up of speakers and register for the conference here. After you've registered, there are directions to download the web app Whova, where you will be able to visit our exhibitor “booth!”

Whova instructions:

Once you’ve registered for the conference, you will need to set up your Whova account. Whova is the virtual conference platform that you’ll use to access the conference.

Set up your account here using the email address you registered with. Create a password that you will remember, and write it down for safekeeping.

IMPORTANT! The first time you set up this account, you must use the same email address that you used to register for the conference. If you don’t, your virtual conference portal may present you with with features that aren’t actually available. Conference organizers have communicated that you should not use the Facebook login option, or any other login options, when setting up your account. Just create the account with your registration email address.

Next, log into the Whova portal. On the day of the conference, this is where you’ll go to access your sessions and use other features. Once you’ve created your Whova account, you can log back in at any time using the same email address and password you set up earlier.

NOTE: You may notice when you’re logged in that the little icon in your browser tab has changed from the PCCSC logo to the blue Whova “W”. That means you’re in the portal—congrats! One easy thing you can do to avoid frustration is to log in to the portal at least one day before the event. By taking a few minutes now to log in and explore the conference portal and its features, you’ll know exactly what to do when it’s time for the actual event. And if you encounter any issues, you’ll spot them ahead of time, and the conference organizers will be available to help you fix them.

Virtual Pierce County Survivorship Conference

Thursday, August 5, 11:30-3:30 PM

Free (please register)