Dr Davide Paccagnella
When I submitted an abstract to the 2019 Europaediatrics conference in Dublin, I knew little about it. As my abstract was accepted for poster display, I started reading about the European Paediatric Association (EPA), and got more and more interested. But no amount of reading could really prepare me for the experience of going there – so I thought I’d share a few thoughts with all of you. If you’re interested in going to a great conference, make connections, perhaps display/present a poster, and (last but not least) learn some pearls of wisdom from professionals on top of their game, please read on…
What is it?
The European Paediatric association is, in their own words, a “pan-European scientific association, whose main objective is to encourage scientific co-operation between not-for-profit National European Paediatric Societies/Associations and between European paediatricians working in primary, secondary and tertiary paediatric care in Europe, in order to promote child health and comprehensive paediatric care.” It was founded in 1976 in Rotterdam, and now represents 50 National European Paediatric Societies and Associations.
So far, 9 Europaediatrics Conferences have been held. The one I’ve been to was held in Dublin, between the 13th and the 15th June 2019.
What was good about it?
1. The topics – it would be virtually impossible to list all the topics covered at the conference. From neonatology and critical care, to adolescent medicine and health promotion, from local issues such as social media and obesity, to global child health concerns, such as increasing migration and ongoing conflicts, all interests were catered for. Although I was only able to attend a handful of lectures and workshops (as most of the sessions ran contemporaneously), I felt excited, stimulated, impressed, and humbled by many of the accounts and experiences that were being shared.
From a “paediatric trainee” perspective, I particularly enjoyed a “Meet the Expert” session on the diagnosis and management of seizures by leading experts Sophia Varadkar and Mary King, as well as a heated debate between Professors Chiarelli and Viner (both Diabetes and Adolescent Health specialists) on whether childhood obesity should be considered a form of abuse.
I learnt a lot and made quite a few useful notes by attending some of the satellite symposia on allergy (desensitisation therapies) and Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
And the truth is, I wish I’d had more time to attend all of them! Whether the topic was educationally relevant to me at the time, or whether I learnt about global child health and how the world works, I left feeling more hopeful about life in general!
2. The speakers – Where do I start? Some of the very best of Healthcare professionals from all over Europe (and the World) seemed to be there. If I was to name them all, you might be reading on for a while...
But just to give you a flavour, the president of the International Paediatric Association, Zulfiqar Bhutta, spoke about Child and Adolescent Global Health Challenges.
You may have met or listened to our former RCPCH President, Neena Modi, or our current one, Russell Viner – well, they both delivered powerful and moving speeches.
And the list goes on...It would be fair to say that everyone I have listened to presented a topic they were not only competent at, but also interested in sharing with the audience. This made every lecture/workshop that I attended stimulating and interactive.
Finally, I had a moment of wonder – the Health Minister of Ireland gave a speech at the Introductory Plenary. Although elements of his speech were, by nature, political, I was deeply impressed by his manners – he came across as knowledgeable, humble, and respectful of the medical profession. Made me hopeful that a few other Health Ministers across the world may do the same.
3. The atmosphere - I’d never been to Dublin but I can only recommend it. It was a busy couple of days as I was also preparing for an exam, so I did not fully enjoy all that Dublin could have offered. The venue was spectacular (by the river, with great views over the city and the Wicklow mountains). I met a few colleagues from Ireland with whom we chatted about a variety of things ranging from politics to travelling (and medicine). I also spoke to a few Italians about paediatric training and the differences between our systems – which made me really appreciate the structure of our curriculum and the opportunities we get as members of the RCPCH.
What was not so good about it?
I felt that more could have been done to allow professionals whose first language was not English, to express themselves in their full capacity.
Although everyone had prepared presentations in English, the quality of the translations varied significantly. It just seemed a shame that highly-knowledgeable professors should struggle to express complex concepts in a language that wasn’t theirs. I understand that having translators would have been logistically complicated (and perhaps not justifiable), but I think it would have made a positive difference to both speakers and audience.
Otherwise, it is difficult to be objectively critical of anything – hot food would have been nice (but the sandwiches were acceptable) and better velcro to attach posters may have come handy, although I should probably blame my fabric poster for that (which was, by the way, a good investment, as I could fold it and pack it in my luggage without incurring Ryanair fees).
Would I recommend it?
Yes – simple answer. Expensive (450 Euros) but good value for three days of excellent opportunities for learning, networking, and much more.
I ‘m glad I went, for all the reasons I explained above, but mostly because it gave me a boost of motivation and hope for the work we do as Paediatricians.
If you’d like to attend the Conference in 2020, have a look at the links below.
Dr Annabel Greenwood