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Reaching for common goals in endocrinology and diabetes care

Last year, the Irish Endocrine Society (IES) did not hold its usual Annual Meeting. This was due to the fact Dublin, for the first time, was the host city for the European Society of Endocrinology Conference. The Conference, which was held in the National Convention Centre in November 2015, was a huge success, with approximately 4,009 delegates in attendance. Now, the IES is preparing to hold its own Annual Meeting again for the first time in two years. The event, which is the 40th Annual Meeting in the Society’s history, will take place in the Stormont Hotel, Belfast, on October 14 and 15.

IES President Prof Finbarr O’Harte, who is Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of Ulster, is looking forward to the Meeting. He said that the number of abstracts that have been submitted for the event show the strength of the Society and of endocrine and diabetes research in Ireland.

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Prof Finbarr O’Harte

“We actually have more poster presentations than ever,” Prof O’Harte told the Medical Independent (MI).

“So it is a bigger meeting than ever. We have something like 147 poster abstracts. Normally, we would have 70 or 80 or 90, at most, from previous programmes. So we are really growing at a pace. The fact that there are so many abstracts is a good sign that endocrinology and diabetes research is alive and well in Ireland. I have gone to a number of Irish endocrine meetings over the years and have noticed that the amount of research in diabetes is increasing year-on-year.”

Some of the highlights of the event will include presentations by Prof David Nathan, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, US, who will deliver the inaugural Hadden Lecture (formerly the Novo Lecture); and Dr Amar Agha, Consultant Endocrinologist, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, who will deliver the inaugural McKenna Lecture (formerly the Nordisk Lecture). The decision to rename the two lectures was made to reflect the contributions that Prof David Hadden, who passed away in 2014, and Prof T Joseph McKenna have made to the field of endocrinology in the island of Ireland.

In his lecture, Prof Nathan, who is an international authority in the area, will speak about ‘Controversies in diabetes 2016: where do we go from here?’, while the title of Dr Agha’s talk is ‘Pituitary replacement therapy: refinement, interactions and unanswered questions’.

“They both promise to be very interesting talks and we are all very much looking forward to hearing them,” Prof O’Harte said.

Another highlight of next week’s Meeting, according to Prof O’Harte, will be a paper by Prof Donal O’Shea, Consultant Endocrinologist, St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, on diabetes and obesity.

“It is a particularly interesting fact that has been discovered lately that cytokines and immune cells have a role to play in the induction of obesity,” Prof O’Harte said.

“There is a lot of interest in that presentation. That was something that hit the press a few weeks ago, that there is a role for immune cells, and Donal O’Shea was one of the people involved in that.”

Research

The O’Donovan Medal will be awarded to the best oral research presentation at the Meeting. Also, at the very end of the two-day event, a selection of the 2015 IES-sponsored summer student research projects will be presented.

Prof O’Harte said the Society provides a valuable role for Irish researchers working in the field of endocrinology.

“The advantages are that the Society sponsors clinical folk to go on sabbatical to learn new techniques in other countries, in the US in particular — a lot of folk go there,” he said.

“They sponsor clinicians to go and do pieces of work or learn new techniques in other laboratories or clinical settings. But they also sponsor basic scientists through small grants. Some are students, trainee medical students; they sponsor summer students to do small projects and we have, for the first time in our programme this year, at the end of the oral presentations we will have three presentations, which will come from some of the summer students. The meeting is also a networking opportunity between people — they have common goals within diabetes and within endocrinology to work with each other as well. So there are good opportunities to discuss [this] at coffee breaks and so on, what is going on in diabetes and endocrinology in general.”

The Meeting will also see the Lifetime Achievement Award being presented to Prof AB Atkinson. Prof O’Harte said an important function of the Society is to help bridge the gap between basic scientists working in laboratories and clinicians.

“Communication between the groups is definitely strengthened by the Society,” he said.

“In fact, there is a great need for that, because clinicians and basic scientists can speak a different language and speak differently about things. A basic scientist, like myself, is thinking about animal models and cell work and molecular biology and things like that, and that can be a different language to what clinicians are dealing with. There is usually a patient sitting in front of them. We can be quite removed from patients. So the clinician usually has that fairly high in their agenda. So it is good to hear from all sides in their research, what kind of things they are doing in their research to improve the outcomes of people with diabetes and other endocrine disorders.”

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