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Sargent College Hosts First Virtual Conference

Faculty, alumni speak on range of health issues at daylong event

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Move over, TED talks. Make room for Health Matters@BUSargent.

At Sargent College’s first-ever virtual conference this Thursday, September 17, nearly four dozen faculty, alumni, and graduate students will give nearly two dozen presentations on a broad range of health issues: obesity, nutrition, concussion management, child development, traumatic brain injury, rehabilitation science, arthritis, and stuttering, among others. SAR’s confab is modeled on TED talks, the twice-a-year ideas conference that produces 18-minute lectures frequently posted online.

Aimed at professionals in occupational, physical, and speech therapy, as well as SAR alumni, prospective students, and their families, the free daylong conference will feature mostly live, real-time talks—with a smattering of prerecorded ones and panel discussions—on topics like Cadaver to Clinic: Studying Human Physiology at BU; Get Moving: Why It’s Easier Said Than Done; Did You Know? Facts and Fiction about Stuttering; How Technology Is Changing Rehabilitation; and Attention Spectrum Disorders: Brain Communication Networks Need Our Attention.

“We are always looking for ways to engage our greater Sargent community members more deeply,” says Christopher Moore, dean of Sargent. “This conference provides a way to do this in a very rich, college-wide way. It unites us as a community and connects us globally.…We are hoping to introduce the full spectrum of capabilities, strengths, and talent at Sargent to people who may not realize exactly what is going on here.”

The most technical presentations “will be at the level of a Scientific American article—appropriate for all audiences with a scientific bent,” Moore says. “There will be a good amount of material that is useful to the general public as well.”

And, he says, “registration is free, painless, and open to the world.”

Organizers hope to attract at least 500 viewers globally, says Karen Jacobs (SAR’79), a SAR clinical professor of occupational therapy. Jacobs conceived the idea for the conference after six years of helping to run a similar online event for occupational therapists from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia titled OT24Vx. Moore says SAR also was inspired by last year’s Business Jam, a 60-hour online conference of business leaders and educators spearheaded by the Questrom School of Business.

Moore appointed a health matters conference committee, which began planning the conference last February. Jacobs says committee members selected the topics from among ideas solicited from faculty. She then tapped experts at Questrom and the College of Communication to prep SAR faculty in how to give TED-like talks and how to design the conference site. “I think it demonstrates the incredible infrastructure at BU for putting something like this together,” she says.

Among the conference highlights will be a presentation titled No Other University Offers This Course, by Stacey Zawacki (SAR’98, SPH’13), director of the Sargent Choice Nutrition Center and a clinical professor of health sciences. Zawacki will trace the evolution of the Sargent Choice healthy food and education program from a line of healthy baked goods in 2004 to the multilevel integrated program of intensive counseling, population education, and environmental change it is today. A panel discussion will focus on the multidisciplinary care of persons with concussion at the Ryan Center for Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation at BU. The center houses physicians specializing in family medicine, sports medicine, and orthopedics, as well as BU’s Physical Therapy Center and Athletic Training Services. Panelists will discuss each profession’s approach and how each plays a role in the recovery of these patients. And Jessica Kramer, a SAR assistant professor of occupational therapy, will talk about the importance of forming partnerships with youth and young adults with developmental disabilities and describe the research and practice innovations that stem from such partnerships.

Jacobs says she hopes the takeaway message from the conference is that “Sargent College is a global leader in research, scholarship, education, and clinical practice in health and rehabilitation.” 

Find a full schedule and register for the Health Matters Virtual Conference, which runs Thursday, September 17, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT.  Registration is open until the beginning of the conference.

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Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

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