Dr. Sami Owaida is the only child and adolescent psychiatrist in Gaza. He was planning to attend UBC's Brain Development and Learning Conference this week in Vancouver in order to better help patients with stress and post-traumatic stress disorders that are so common in Gaza.
However, when the funds that he needed for his expenses were not available, conference organizer Dr. Adele Diamond asked Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities in Vancouver if they would each raise 50 percent of the travel costs. Donations came in from Sunni, Shia, and Ismaili Muslims, from Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform Jews, from Christians, and from secular individuals. The vast majority of people making donations live in the greater Vancouver area, but contributions also came in from folks in other provinces and the U.S., as well as from several Jews in Israel.
The event itself promises to be fascinating. It is the fourth interdisciplinary conference devoted to improving children's lives by highlighting innovative programs and by presenting the newest research in a way that is applicable to those who work directly with children.
Conference themes include the need for positive social relationships, empathy, education, aboriginal health, the effects of stress on the brain, prenatal care, attachment, family dynamics, and the challenges of blindness. In all of these fields, there is the growing awareness of how much our mental, emotional, and physical health is affected by our early experiences and environments, as well as by the social determinants of well-being.
Some of the more well-known presenters include Mary Gordon, Bruce Perry, Tracy Bale, Sonia Lupien, and Vancouver's Gabor Maté.
The ability of infants to make moral judgements was discussed today by Kiley Hamlin, a UBC researcher whose work was featured in a recent episode of CBC's The Nature of Things.
And on Sunday, keynote speaker Daniel Siegel, from UCLA, will outline his insights about how relationships and the brain interact to shape our sense of "self".
The event is taking place at the Westin Bayshore. For a complete schedule of presentations and other details, see the conference website or call (604) 827-3112.
Peter G. Prontzos is a political science instructor at Langara.