The International Neuropsychological Society’s (INS) historic 50th Anniversary Mid-Year Congress took place in Cape Town at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 5-8 July 2017 and welcomed close to 400 delegates from 30 different countries. Over the past 50 years the INS Congresses have become the place where the global neuropsychological fraternity meets, and this is the second time that an INS Mid-Year Congress has been held in South Africa, the first being in Durban in 1999. It was thus fitting that INS’s 50th Anniversary celebrations continued within our vibrant and culturally diverse African context.
The Congress was jointly organised by PsySSA and its affiliate, the South African Clinical Neuropsychological Association (SACNA), under the auspices of INS. This collaboration between PsySSA and SACNA has forged closer ties between the two organisations which can only be of benefit for neuropsychology in South Africa.
Congress and Scientific Programme Chairs Ann Watts (PsySSA) and Annelise Cramer (SACNA), worked closely with current INS President, Michael Kopelman, and INS Executive Director, Gordon Chelune, to develop a the strong three and a half day scientific programme that was organised around the Congress theme Celebrating 50 Years. It included four pre-Congress workshops, seven plenary keynote addresses and six invited symposia by leading international neuropsychologists, as well as a wide array of paper and poster presentations on topics covering the breath of neuropsychology, including assessment, rehabilitation and cognitive neuroscience. In addition, issues of particular relevance to the majority world and global South were also addressed, notably cross-cultural issues, HIV, and neuropsychology in low resource settings. The scientific programme also included a symposium and workshop convened by the INS Student Liaison Committee. In addition, INS Archival material was on display in the Exhibition Hall in honour of INS’s 50th Anniversary. This display included video recordings of seminal lectures presented at previous Congresses (e.g. Michael Gazzaniga on brain connectivity and Giacoma Rizzolatti on mirror neurons), and interviews with world renowned neuropsychologists, such as Muriel Lezak, Marcel Kinsbourne, and Elizabeth Warrington. INS President Michael Kopelman noted that the Scientific Programme Committee had “put together a magnificent programme, encompassing many aspects of contemporary neuropsychology as well as a look-back and celebration of the last 50 years”. The Congress programme and abstract books are available at www.ins2017.com.
The Opening Ceremony on 05 July 2017 was addressed by INS President Michael Kopelman, PsySSA President-Elect Tholene Sodi, and SACNA President Elton Bloye. It also featured entertainment by Women Unite, an all women’s group led by Thandi Swaartbooi, the the Shoprite Checkers Woman of the Year in 2008, who aim to advance the recognition of women in arts and culture. This was followed by the INS Presidential Address and the INS Awards Ceremony. The INS Awards are given at each Congress and include Major INS Awards in recognition of early career, life time achievement or mentoring in neuropsychological research, education or service, as well as INS Programme Awards for the most outstanding scientific contributions to the scientific programme, and the INS Student Liaison Committee Student Research Awards for the highest-rated abstracts from amongst student research submissions. A highlight of the Awards Ceremony was the awarding of the prestigious Paul Satz-INS Career Mentoring Award to Shirley Tollman, the first time that the recipient of this award has been from Africa. The award, which is bestowed upon an individual whose mentoring and/or teaching activities have made a profound impact on the careers of students in the field of neuropsychology, was richly deserved by Professor Tollman. She has played a pivotal role in the development of neuropsychology as a field of academic and professional relevance in South Africa. In addition, she has continuously over the years mentored post-graduate Honours, Masters and Doctoral students, as well as early career psychologists in areas that are relevant for the South African context. Professor Tollman also organised the first National Neuropsychology Congress in Durban in 1981, the first INS Congress in Durban in 1999, and created a Division of Neuropsychology within PsySSA in 2001. She is also a Past-President of SACNA.
A number of social events provided an opportunity for delegates to network with colleagues from around the world. These included the Welcome Reception on Wednesday 05 July 2017 and a 50th Anniversary Celebratory Party on Thursday 06 July 2017 at which delegates were able to enjoy South African food, wine and music. The INS International Student Liaison Committee also organised several networking opportunities for students, including a “meet and greet” lunch for students on the first day of the Congress and a social evening at one of Cape Town’s fun spots, the Village Idiot.
Feedback from both local and international delegates has been extremely positive regarding all aspects of the Congress. Special thanks must go to PsySSA’s in-house Congress organising team under the able leadership of Executive Director, Fatima Seedat. Key roles were also played by Karl Swain (Chair of the SA Society for Clinical Psychology) and PsySSA Treasurer, Ewald Crause. The supported of the National Research Foundation is also gratefully acknowledged.