isamDUNDEE2015 Congress Legacy

isamDUNDEE2015 Congress Legacy

Legacy of isamDUNDEE2015 Congress – A Game Changer In Many Ways

October 2015 saw the opening day of the isamDUNDEE2015 Congress at Dundee’s Caird Hall.  The 5th of October was the culmination of several years of focused planning by the whole ISAM committee.  But few were more enthusiastically involved than Professor Alex Baldacchino, then of the University of Dundee and now Professor of Medicine, Psychiatry and Addictions, University of St Andrews.

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The event, taking place for the first time in the UK, broke records for the city when 619 international delegates from 56 countries participated in 45 workshops, 250 presentations and 10 keynote lectures over four days.  The economic impact for the city and surrounding area was £1.2million.

One of the key aims of holding the congress in Europe was for ISAM to bring together leading global experts in the field of addiction medicine and, importantly, to secure an increase in European memberships for the organisation.  An objective which was achieved following the largest number of new membership registrations ahead of the annual congress.



Dundee & Angus Convention Bureau caught up with Professor Baldacchino, now the President- Elect of ISAM, in St Andrews and ask him to reflect on the legacy of the isamDUNDEE2015 event.

What do you consider to be the professional impact which holding ISAM in Dundee has had?

“It’s interesting to look back over the intervening five years and to see what the whole ISAM team has achieved academically since Dundee.  For many of the organising team it has been a game changer.  Individuals from clinicians to administrators, have moved on and into more senior roles.  For example, Jackie Malcolm, who worked with the team to develop an arts project and exhibition for isamDUNDEE2015, is now the Associate Dean of Learning & Teaching at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, The University of Dundee. 

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On a personal level, I moved into the position of Chair of Medicine in the months after ISAM.  And whilst these appointments and promotions were not wholly a direct result ISAM, the globalisation of our work and the leadership exposure were certainly an influence.

“The personal connections made with other professionals in the field have been very important for me and for many others who came to Dundee.

“As an organisation, ISAM has contracted recently with a Dundee-based firm to undertake its website updates for future events, which I am sure would not have happened without the congress taking place in the city five years ago.”

How do you think that ISAM benefitted from the event being held in Dundee?

“It was important for us to host the event in Dundee as it was always an aim to grow our European membership through the location of the event.  In the short term this objective was certainly achieved.  However, in the intervening time our membership has doubled from 5,000 to 10,000 global members.  Prior to 2015, our membership was heavily weighted to towards areas such as Australia, New Zealand, Korea, India and North America.  The momentum of increased European membership continued beyond the event in 2015 to date and it has been partly responsible for us establishing five special interest groups in the areas of neurosciences, behavioural addiction, practice and policy, twelve step and spirituality.  The neurosciences interest group is currently co-chaired by Professor Douglas Steele of the University of Dundee, so Dundee’s connections with ISAM remain.  ISAM has also develop relationships with six or seven affiliate societies since 2015.

“Some of the congress visitors have now sat the ISAM exams and have become ISAM fellows too and some are co-chairing ISAM groups.”

Were there any unexpected benefits to the Dundee relationship?

“We worked very hard to develop a strong brand for isamDUNDEE2015 and we were supported in this by Dundee & Angus Convention Bureau.  This branding has been sustained since then and you can see it in this year’s virtual congress and materials - those for isamVALLETTA2021.  Other locations are keen to emulate the branding success of the Dundee event.

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“Organisers of other international ISAM events, such as that in Abu Dhabi, emulated the arts and culture programme which we ran in Dundee.”

How is Dundee viewed by those who attended in 2015?

“There is much reminiscing about ISAM’s time in Dundee to this day.  Delegates at events I attend across the globe still talk about the city, the hospitality and the quiet areas we established in areas upstairs in The Caird Hall.  In fact, it’s sometimes embarrassing for me when someone tells me that the event that we are attending is good, but not as great as Dundee – when we’re standing beside the current event’s organisers!

“We established a high standard of programme for isamDUNDEE2015 and we’re still using this framework for our current events.”

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Can you sum up the legacy of isamDUNDEE2015 for you?

“A few months ago, one of ISAM’s founding members said to me ‘you’ve become international’.  He said that being involved in an event of such a scale which is viewed by all as a success, has given me an international confidence on all different levels.  That my involvement with ISAM has led to me having an influence in different parts of the world.  He certainly gave me something to think about.  I think it is important that, as professionals, we instil aspirations for all and ISAM has done that for me.”

Professor Alexander Baldacchino

Professor Alexander Baldacchino MD, MPhil, PhD, FISAM, FRCPsych, FRCP(E) is Professor of Medicine, Psychiatry and Addictions, University of St Andrews, Consultant in Addiction Medicine, NHS Fife Addiction Services, NHS Fife Research, Development and Innovation Director and President-Elect, International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM)