How did this conference begin and what is it about?
Dr. Claudio Battaglini and his colleague, Marcelo Boia, a faculty member at the Unified Center for Education (UniCEUB) together started the CONFINES, an International Conference of Sports and Health 5 years ago. CONFINES takes place in the fall of each year in the vibrant city of Brasilia, Brazil. The main purpose of this conference, in it’s 5 edition this year, is to promote international collaboration efforts between North and South America, and on a global scale. Hosted at UniCEUB, CONFINES brings together researchers, physicians, undergraduates, graduates, and faculty members worldwide. The conference usually invites a high profile researcher or professional from the world of exercise and/or health to open the conference and set the stage and theme of the following days. CONFINES provides the chance to discuss and present current research endeavors through oral presentations and poster presentations by faculty and students. There are extensive networking opportunities aimed to develop collaborative international research projects and the ability to arrange study exchange opportunities/programs. Roundtable discussions provide the means for faculty, students and researchers to deliberate future scientific directions and goals as well as the future scope of the CONFINES conference programs. For those who are unable to attend in person, CONFINES is broadcast online and has the capacity to reach thousands of universities and medical centers worldwide. The conference is fully supported by a professional translation company which provides a maximal opportunity for presentations and communication, regardless of language barriers.
Based on the affiliations developed and interests identified in the current CONFINES conference, future conferences are designed to directly meet the needs, interests, and scientific intentions of the attending community. It is truly a dynamic event. Past conferences have ranged from sports to cancer and rehabilitation of chronic conditions to topics in sports administration and promote a vibrant learning environment across disciplines and skill levels where the positive utility of international relationships and collaboration can be truly experienced.
Who attended CONFINES V this year and what did they do?
Twelve members of the UNC EXSS and Department of Athletics attended CONFINES this year: Four professors, 2 coaches, 4 graduate students, and 2 undergraduate students. The conference kickstarted with multiple events led by the students of UniCEUB and highlighted the rich culture of Brazilian life including dance, charity endeavors, and music. This year, Coach Sylvia Hatchell was invited as the keynote speaker to encourage the further development of a professional basketball team in Brasilia, and opened the conference with a warm, lively welcome. Coach Hatchell shared lessons from both professional and personal joys and challenges she faced through her 30 seasons of experience as the head coach of UNC Women’s Basketball. She also addressed the struggles she faced when presented with the grave diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia and the critical role of exercise through her course of treatment and recovery. Coach Hatchell provided an engaging and uplifting keynote presentation, involving students from UniCEUB as part of her message and reminded the audience of their sacred opportunities in life. Following her kickstart of the conference, other presentations during the first days echoed the same theme of basketball. Presentations revolved around the logistics and design of American basketball teams and the training programs they depend on for success as a way to help guide the Brazilian teams in the same direction.
On subsequent days, gears changed from sport to physiology as UNC faculty and students gave presentations regarding exercise immunology and the biological/biochemical changes associated with exercise, obesity and the fight for perspective shifts in addressing the health needs of our youth, and short-term strength training for patients prior to max testing as a better way to capture more accurate training prescriptions. Some of the same challenges we face as scientists, researchers, and members of the American society are shared with the people of Brazil. However, significant differences in cultural perspectives and health care designs also exist. These unique relationships provided robust opportunities for the two societies to share insight and experiences as ways to restructure our thoughts and implementation of science in our respective communities.
There was also time for fun once the duties of the conference had subsided. One afternoon the UNC students led a CrossFit workout challenge involving both students and faculty from UNC and UniCEUB. Participants completed a full workout circuit including CrossFit’s most “loved” exercises like box jumps, burpees and push presses galore. The evening ended with a great group dinner at an incredible Brazilian restaurant. The final day was bittersweet but placed teams of UNC students and teams of UniCEUB students in a head-to-head fitness challenge. Teams completed agility, speed and strength tasks on land and in water, hanging from ziplines, sliding through human bowling courses, and wobbling on slack lines in the race for ultimate CONFINES V glory.
How did this experience impact the students/faculty at UNC?
Ask any of the 12 people who attended the conference in Brasilia about their experience and be ready to sit and talk for a while! Most have found it hard to put into words; from life lessons of an entirely different culture, to the friendships developed in only a few days, to the professional networks which developed and offered tools to collaborate, to the fantastic food experience and pure indulgence in the way of life as a Brazilian, the trip was literally life changing academically, professionally, and personally. The cultural and environmental differences between America and Brazil were crystal clear, beginning with the customary kiss-on-the-cheek-hellos to the mango groves which line the sidewalks of the city. The wholesome warm welcomes and the connecting of brilliant minds created an environment so engaging and eye opening that Brazilian and American students and faculty could share, challenge, laugh, debate, and support each other in everything from exercise physiology to local sports teams.
With specific regards to research, the ability to expand our EXSS IMPACT and disseminate research findings from the Tar Heel state to South America provided a distinct opportunity to contribute to the diversity of both Brazil and North Carolina, and serve those in need on a broader scale. With research projects as a liaison between UNC and UniCEUB, students can now promote, mentor, and engage the further development of exercise physiology and oncology programs for future endeavors. These long-term experiences will provide unparalleled opportunities for leadership, academic growth, and clinical growth.
UNC students were tasked with the challenge and responsibility to lead as peers, collaborators, and representatives of the University, and upheld this duty with highest honor. The ability for students and faculty to share time and experiences together outside of the walls of Fetzer, Woollen, and the United States encouraged substantial growth and development on personal and professional levels.
While the collaborations and friendships made between UNC and UniCEUB are separated truly by hemispheres, the contacts remain vibrant. In December, the groups will be reunited as the exchange occurs again, but in reverse, and UNC will welcome members of UniCEUB to the beautiful state of North Carolina and work to plan CONFINES VI. We look forward to returning the favor of such a fantastic experience.
CONFINES VI conference welcomes participation of faculty in any specialization and any student who would like the chance to engage in such a robust learning experience. For more information about attending the conference, please contact Dr. Battaglini in EXSS.