Rachel Boothman, Head of Education and Information, MND Association
With a few days to digest all that happened at the 26th International Symposium on ALS/MND.. ….here are some reflections from a first timer.
Having recently moved into a new education role at the MND Association, I was armed with a ‘to do’ list of networking, horizon scanning for developments in respiratory/nutritional care and relaying learning via our online professionals forum. I was also tasked with the honour of helping to judge the clinical poster prize alongside two renowned neurologists from the USA and Australia.
Every year, we hear about the fantastic collaborations, projects and new discoveries that emerge from this annual gathering, but I didn’t wholly understand the enormity and significance of this international community until experiencing it first hand.
It is a challenge to articulate the scale and breadth of work going on across a whole raft of subject areas, which range from complex clinical trials to very simple changes in care pathways which can make a significant difference to those living with and affected by MND.
Delegates heard about the results of collaborations formed at the last year’s Symposium and new links were made this year, which will no doubt prevent duplication of work. I was able to hook up with my counterpart at the ALS Association and we have already made contact via email since arriving home! There were also opportunities to share ideas and resources around developing services for children and young people affected by MND. If that’s not enough, I learned how the ‘tweet’ and share information on social media!
The Poster Prize
The poster exhibition hall alone was the size of an aircraft hanger, half of which was dedicated to more than 300 poster displays from all corners of the globe.
The objectives of the poster prize are three fold: to increase the profile of the poster sessions; to recognise the quality of the work presented and to reward presenters for outstanding work. Two final prizes were awarded, one selected from the clinical and scientific programmes, respectively. The prize itself is a certificate and a medal.
Ed Kasarskis from the USA and Matthew Kiernan from Australia joined me on the judging panel and delegates were allocated ten minutes to present their posters and answer questions. We were delighted to award the prize for the clinical poster to Dr Rebecca (Becky) Broad from the University of Sussex in the UK. Her poster “Neurite Orientation Dispersion and Density Imaging (NODDI), was in the Imaging and Electrophysiology theme and demonstrated microstructural changes association with MND.
For me, the sessions which resonated most were those on cognitive change (assessment and management) and the impact of strain on family/informal carers. It was great to hear about work underway in Cambridge, UK which considers the impact of cognitive change on carers and that guidance is being drafted which will provide non-pharmacological strategies and tools to help manage this.
The phenomenal energy, commitment and drive to find new management techniques, treatments and eventually a cure for MND, was evident throughout the Symposium and I heard several delegates state ‘it was the best yet’. If I had to use three words to surmise my experience, I would quote my tweet from the final day – inspiring, humbling and hopeful!