“It’s good to be back.” It felt like this was the unwritten theme of the second Congress of the Asia-Pacific Laryngology Association (APLA), held in conjunction with the 66th Annual Convention of the Philippine Society of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery (PSO-HNS). The official theme was ‘VAST (Voice, Airway, Swallowing and Therapy) Experience in the Asia-Pacific,’ and it followed the successful inaugural APLA Congress held in Singapore in November 2019.
This first major face-to-face conference since the start of the two-year COVID-19 pandemic drew over 1300 local delegates and over 50 foreign delegates, making its mark as the most highly attended annual convention in the history of the PSO-HNS.
The local organisation was spearheaded by the Philippine Academy of Laryngobronchoesophagology and Phoniatrics (PALP) under its Chair Frederick Y Hawson. They were able to gather renowned experts from the APLA and around the world to impart their knowledge and experience on laryngology and beyond. PALP was fully supported by the PSO-HNS under its President Frederick Mars Untalan and the Overall Convention Chair Ricardo Ramirez.
The three-day event included notable interactive sessions tackling various types of dysphonia, dysphagia and challenging airway problems. Of all the topics presented, the plenary sessions that attracted the most audience interest and the liveliest post-lecture discourse were those discussing complex issues regarding voice feminisation and masculinisation, the management of upper airway complications after prolonged intubation and tracheostomy, approaches in obstructive bilateral vocal fold paralysis without tracheostomy, and the care of the elite vocal professionals.
There were also various competitions held during the congress. The poster presentation contest was won by Alyssa Bautista for her poster entitled ‘An Evaluation of Quality of Life and Voice Improvement Among Patients with Spasmodic Dysphonia who Underwent Isshiki Thyroplasty Type II: A Single Center Study’. Held for the first time was the first APLA International Laryngology Quiz which had a thrillingly tight contest up to the finish. It was won by the team composed of Giancarlo Velasco and Catherine Policina from the Rizal Medical Center, Philippines. The quizmaster was Firyal Balushi from Oman, with Nilanjan Bhowmick from India as her co-host.
The grand prize winner of the paper presentation contest was Senior ENT-HNS Resident Jacqueline Cua-Lim from the Philippines with her paper entitled ‘Comparison of the Loss of Resistance Syringe to Pilot Balloon Palpation in Achieving the Recommended Endotracheal Cuff Pressure of Filipino Patients in a Tertiary Private Hospital: A Cross-over Randomized Controlled Trial.’ She won a generous grant of US$1000 which was awarded by APLA Founding Chair Vasant Oswal and his wife Nirmal from the UK.
There was indeed a heightened sense of excitement and active participation among the attendees, coming off almost three years of conferences held virtually. The buzzing atmosphere was a testament to the quality of the meeting and its roster of experts. The conference achieved its goal of advancing interest in the field of laryngology, ensuring better patient outcomes in this subspecialty.
Plans are already underway for the third APLA Congress which will be held in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 25-27 November 2023, with Kamrul Tarafder at the helm.
Reinzi Bautista, Fellow, Philippine Society of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.