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ISR gathering to discuss latest developments in rheumatology

By Mindo - 30th Mar 2024

developments in rheumatology

Attendees of the upcoming Spring Meeting of the Irish Society for Rheumatology can expect a rich and varied programme

The first major gathering of the Irish Society for Rheumatology (ISR) in 2024 is due to take place later this month. The ISR Spring Meeting will be held in The Grand Hotel, Malahide, Co Dublin, on 11-12 April. The meeting will see international and national experts update delegates on a wide range of topics related to the specialty.

Proceedings will begin on Thursday 11 April with an address from new ISR President Dr John Ryan. Dr Ryan, who is Consultant Rheumatologist in Cork University Hospital, is a graduate of the RCSI. He undertook his postgraduate training in rheumatology and general internal medicine in Ireland and was awarded a Fellowship at the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, in the US. His special interests include inflammatory arthritis, connective tissue diseases, and vasculitis.

Pregnancy and rheumatological disease

Following the opening address, Prof Fionnuala McAuliffe will deliver the first presentation of the Spring Meeting. Prof McAuliffe is Full Academic Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin, Head of Women’s and Child’s Health at University College Dublin (UCD), and Director of the UCD Perinatal Research Centre. The tile of Prof McAuliffe’s talk is ‘Obstetric care for women with rheumatological disease’.

Prof McAuliffe is the principal investigator on many clinical randomised intervention trials in pregnancy to improve maternal and infant health, such as the ROLO study, which is a large randomised trial examining the impact of a low glycaemic diet on maternal and foetal health.

Prof McAuliffe has received significant grant funding both nationally and internationally. She has over 380 peer-reviewed publications, has been a reviewer for over 40 international scientific journals and has developed guidelines for pregnancy in Ireland, UK, and internationally.

The next speaker is Dr Sinead Maguire, Clinical Fellow, Toronto Western Hospital, Canada. Dr Maguire undertook her Fellowship in pregnancy in axial spondyloarthropathy at the hospital. Her presentation will be on pregnancy in axial spondyloarthritis.

After Dr Maguire’s talk, there will be a coffee break. The first talk after the break is titled ‘From medicine to mindfulness’. It will be delivered by Dr Ceara Belviso, who has a medical background in rheumatology and is now a mindful living coach.

Psoriatic arthritis

Prof Frank Behrens

The first day will end with a presentation on advancements in psoriatic arthritis management. The presentation will be given by Prof Frank Behrens. Prof Behrens is a Professor of Translational Rheumatology, Immunology, and Inflammation Medicine and Head of the Inflammation Clinic at the University Hospital and a Deputy Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Translational Medicine and Pharmacology (ITMP) at the Goethe-University Frankfurt, Germany. He is a member of the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence for Immune-mediated-disease (CIMO) board of directors.

Prof Behren’s primary research interest is the pathophysiological understanding of spondyloarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and mixed connected tissue disease. The focus is on understanding the links between these rheumatic conditions and associated skin and bowel diseases. His research is aimed at developing new drug therapies and implementing personalised treatment approaches using combined biomarker analyses and new imaging techniques.

The meeting will see international and national experts update delegates on a wide range of topics related to the specialty

Before studying medicine, Prof Behrens studied biology at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. He completed his doctorate in haematology and oncology and then trained in internal medicine and rheumatology. He was awarded a scholarship to the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Goethe University in Frankfurt, where he researched the role and function of regulatory T-cells in chronic arthritis and angiogenesis in psoriatic disease. Prof Behrens then focused on translational research and developing new therapeutic options, particularly in psoriatic arthritis. He is responsible for several investigator-initiated studies in rheumatic diseases, has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals and is the author of several textbooks on the area. Prof Behrens is a member of various international committees and study groups, such as the Group for Research and Assessment of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis.


The second day of the ISR Spring Meeting, Friday 12 April, will begin with clinical case presentations and then a talk by Prof Erwin Loh on artificial intelligence in medicine.

Prof Loh is President Elect of the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators and Chief Medical Officer at Goulburn Valley Health, a public regional health service in Victoria, Australia. He was national Chief Medical Officer and Group General Manager Clinical Governance for St Vincent’s Health Australia, the nation’s largest not-for-profit health and elderly care provider, including six public hospitals, 10 private hospitals, and 23 elderly care facilities. Before that, he was the Chief Medical Officer of Monash Health, Victoria’s largest health service, where he worked for 10 years. Prof Loh had previously been the Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre for three years. Immediately prior to this position, he worked as a full-time lawyer at Sparke Helmore for two years.

He is qualified in both medicine and law, with general and specialist registration as a medical practitioner (medical administration specialty) and is a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria and High Court of Australia. He also has an MBA, Master of Health Service Management, and PhD.

He is currently a director on the board of the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators and the Presbyterian Ladies’ College. He has previously been a director on the boards of St Vincent’s Institute, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery, Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Monash Health Research Precinct Pty Ltd, Australian Medical Association (Victoria) and Law Institute of Victoria. He is a graduate and Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

He is Professor at Monash University, where he leads the Clinical Leadership and Management Unit at the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation. He is Honorary Clinical Professor with the title of Professor at the Department of Medical Education, University of Melbourne.

Final presentations

Following a coffee break, Dr Áine Gorman, Consultant Rheumatologist, Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, Tullamore, Co Offaly, will deliver the next talk. It will be on the subject of the national rheumatology obstetrics service.

Dr Gorman has a degree in medicine from the University of Galway. She also holds a Master’s degree in clinical education. Her main research interests include early inflammatory arthritis and pregnancy in patients with rheumatic disease.

Prof Fionnuala Ní Áinle

The subject of the final talk of the conference is obstetric antiphospholipid syndrome and it will be given by Prof Fionnuala Ní Áinle, Consultant Haematologist, the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and Rotunda Hospital, Dublin. She is a founder member of the Mater’s venous thromboembolism working group and maternal medicine working group with her multidisciplinary colleagues. With Prof Patricia Maguire, she co-directs a translational research group, SPHERE, at the UCD Conway Institute, where she holds an Associate Clinical Fellowship and is a Principal Investigator.

After Prof Ní Áinle’s talk there will be a prize-giving ceremony, which will bring the conference to a close.

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