Each year, rheumatology health professionals, researchers, charities and patients come together for the British Society of Paediatric and Adolescent Rheumatology (BSPAR) conference. This year, the paediatric rheumatology community join us in Manchester! Steeped in history, Manchester is a diverse and international city of culture, creativity and science – at the heart of the ‘Northern powerhouse’.
Each year, BSPAR offers an exciting and stimulating programme – ranging from basic science research, to clinical and applied health services research. Over recent years, there has been an increasing presence of patients, carers and charity representatives at the conference, driven by a common understanding that health professionals and researchers cannot progress without working alongside and in true collaboration with patients and their families.
I’m delighted to be able to fully participate in the BSPAR conference this year. I will be presenting two posters during the breakout sessions and lunch break. The first poster is on my undergraduate BSc (Hons) final year project, where I developed an interactive health communication application for young people with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. The second poster highlights the work of the consumer representatives on the NIHR CRN: Children/Arthritis Research UK Paediatric rheumatology Clinical Studies Group.
During Tuesday afternoon, I’ll be chairing the Your Rheum question and answer session, where a group of empowered young people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) will be grilling a panel of researchers about all things rheumatology research – I can’t wait!
Catherine Wright and I will also be talking to a number of people about the work of the consumer representatives for the national clinical studies group. In addition to Catherine and I, Debbie Janson, Sharon Douglas, Katharine Venter and Joanne Koukis have each played an important part in the development of the consumer group, and the BSPAR conference is the ideal place to celebrate how far we have come, and just how far we still need to go! We will be talking at the juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) topic specific group (TSG) breakfast meeting on Tuesday morning, chaired by Dr Flora McErlane, discussing our consumer research priority, about improving tolerance of methotrexate in children and young people with RMDs. We have recently established a collaborative relationship with the paediatric rheumatology team at the Leeds Children’s Hospital, and I enjoyed meeting Dr Valentina Leone and Dr Tania Amin last week to discuss an exciting new study proposal, which could make a real difference to the way young people feel when taking methotrexate, as I know only too well from personal experience many years ago how unpleasant some of the side effects of this drug are.
The BSPAR conference is also a great opportunity for all of the charity representatives to get together to discuss our joint education project, and how we are collectively moving forward to best support young people and families living with RMDs. I’ll also be there with my Fibromyalgia Action UK hat on! We will also be participating in numerous meetings to discuss existing, current and future research priorities and proposals, a truly collaborative and united approach to research where we are all in it together. It makes me incredibly proud to be a part of the paediatric rheumatology community.
Whether you’re at the conference or not, be sure to share your thoughts, pictures and experiences on social media, using the hashtag #BSPARConf. Look out for a reflective blog of the conference soon, although I may need to re-charge my batteries this week, to get those creative juices flowing!