I did not expect to become the first Zoom president when I was nominated for this position two years ago at the Board of Directors’ meeting in Vancouver in 2018. And I had not anticipated opening the international ISAM-CSAM joint conference in November from my study in Hamilton, Ontario. But then, none of us have had the year we expected. It has been a difficult year, with many losses for all of us, from the deaths of loved ones to socially isolating for months to events that didn’t happen. The pandemic has affected all of us, and profoundly impacted the world of addictions. We have changed how we deliver clinical care, with many of us participating in virtual care for the first time this year. We have worried about changes in the supply and composition of drugs available on the street, and reduced access to treatments and support, putting people who use drugs at increased risk of suffering and death. The double epidemic of opioid use and the pandemic has increased the already high death rate in this population. With data emerging that use of substances has increased in the pandemic, we know that the need for addiction care and treatment will continue to exceed what can be provided.
I am honoured to become the President of CSAM-SMCA. I intend to use our Vision Statement, “Hope and dignity for all touched by addiction” to guide our work during my term. My priorities for the next year include reviewing and renewing the work of each of our committees, supporting and expanding our educational offerings, and encouraging new ways to network and collaborate. My first priority is to have proposed bylaw changes adopted at a Special Meeting set for January 16th, to enable any member of a regulated health professional organization working in addictions to become a full (voting) member of CSAM-SMCA. Addiction medicine is a multidisciplinary field, and CSAM-SMCA will grow and expand with full members from other health care disciplines.
My thanks to everyone who participated in the virtual ISAM-CSAM Scientific Conference in November as an attendee, presenter or organizer. COVID-19 forced us to transition to an entirely virtual event. The impact of the pandemic was apparent from the many sessions that addressed addictions and COVID-19 including the epidemiology, virtual care, changes in policy, modifications in treatment programs and more. We were pleased to offer 43 streamed sessions and over 100 on-demand Research Briefs over the three days of the conference, and I know that many attendees are still watching sessions, as the conference platform will be open until January 3rdh. We are very grateful to our sponsors for the conference, including our Platinum Sponsor Indivior and Gold Sponsors Knight Therapeutics and Canadian Addiction Treatment Centres.
At this time of year, and especially this year, we recognize the importance of friends and families in our lives. I hope you are able to connect, virtually, if not in person, with the people you care about. I would like to express my gratitude to Becca Hebert and Marilyn Dorozio for their outstanding work to support the conference and the activities of CSAM-SMCA. I am grateful to my fellow executive members Dr. Melanie Willows, Dr. Paul Sobey and Dr. Dave Martell. And I am grateful to you, our members, for reading my message, for your interest in addictions, and for your compassion for persons struggling with an addiction.
Best wishes for a safe and meaningful holiday,
The Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine is a national society of medical professionals and scientists committed to helping Canadians understand, accept, and recover from substance use disorders.