• Eahad / Photo: Sami Mannerheimo
  • Eahad / Photo: Sami Mannerheimo
  • Eahad / Photo: Sami Mannerheimo

Hosting EAHAD congress enhanced recognition and visibility

The Unit of Coagulation Disorders of Helsinki University Central Hospital had the honour of hosting the 8th Annual Congress of the European Association for Haemophilia and Allied Disorders at Finlandia Hall from 11 to 13 February 2015. The EAHAD 2015 congress brought to Helsinki over 1200 haemophilia experts from 61 countries around the world.

Riitta Lassila, Professor of Coagulation Disorders at Helsinki University Central Hospital, has been a member of the executive committee of EAHAD for a long time, so when the proposal was made around two and half years ago to hold the annual meeting in Finland, it was an easy decision for Lassila to head up the organising committee. It also helped that EAHAD could count on the services of a professional congress organiser (PCO), the Geneva office of global company MCI, to take care of practical arrangements and assume financial responsibility.

Lassila herself had previous experience organising numerous smaller conferences, so she knew what to expect – be it a meeting of 50, 200 or 2000 people. According to Lassila, her personal contacts with European decision-makers and the exotic appeal of Finland helped attract EAHAD 2015 to Helsinki; apparently Finland had been discussed within the organization as a potential host for its annual congress for several years.

Participants from the USA in particular praised the diversity and professionalism of the scientific programme of EAHAD 2015. As President of the Organising Committee, Riitta Lassila played a major role in planning the programme, as well as in deciding the visual elements of the congress and the choice of venues. Although technical visits were not possible in connection with the annual congress, Lassila encourages other congress organisers to arrange visits among researchers, for example, to promote networking and exchange ideas. Communications in general should be a priority, Lassila adds.

The arrangements in Helsinki for EAHAD 2015 went very smoothly, Lassila confirms, and local cooperation even gave rise to some unique ideas: for example, Marimekko bags were handed out to congress delegates instead of the usual portfolios. The designer bags attracted a lot of praise and positive feedback, while also promoting Finland’s image.

Although some of the delegates had voiced their concerns over the weather in Finland in February, in the end all the visitors were positively surprised by the sunny and clear winter conditions. Originally the annual congress was expected to attract around 800 participants, but the actual number was over 1200.

As a result of the annual congress, the twinning project of the World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH) between Helsinki and Tallinn aims to strengthen the treatment of coagulation disorders in the entire Baltic region, as well as to enhance the expertise and appreciation of related expertise in Finland. Helsinki shall act as a mentor to Tallinn, and cooperation shall be extended further at the Baltic symposium this autumn. In addition, the head of EAHAD shall be awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Helsinki in June 2016.

“We are extremely satisfied that Helsinki was able to host such an important meeting of top international experts. Seldom does Finland get to host such a large gathering of experts in the middle of winter. The annual congress helped enhance the international visibility of Helsinki University Central Hospital and gave a positive impression of our activities,” Riitta Lassila says.

The haemophilia and cancer expertise of Helsinki University Central Hospital, as well as the quality of its research and treatment, represent the highest possible level in Europe. EAHAD 2015 further strengthened the recognition of the Unit of Coagulation Disorders and the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Helsinki University Central Hospital as leading European centres of expertise.