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Record-breaking attendance and leading international and national scientific updates

A record 225 delegates attended this year’s 2018 Irish Society for Rheumatology (ISR) Autumn Meeting in Naas on 19-21 September.

The meeting featured leading international speakers on a range of rheumatic-related topics, covering genetics and genomics, metabolic aspects of spondyloarthritis, early detection of psoriatic arthritis, mechanical stress and effects on MRI and the care of rheumatic patients pre and peripartum, as well as an expanded programme of Irish research presentations.

Speaking to the Medical Independent (MI), ISR President Dr Sinead Harney thanked her colleagues Dr John Ryan and Dr Grainne Murphy for helping her put together the varied and interesting programme.

“The Society is going from strength-to-strength. This was our biggest meeting to date, with 225 participants, and I think the venue and central location meant that all parts of Ireland were represented, including our colleagues from Belfast, Derry, west of Ireland, south of Ireland, and obviously Dublin.”

One particular highlight of the meeting was the lecture by Professor of Biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) Prof Luke O’Neill on the role of the re-programmed Krebs cycle in the therapeutics of inflammatory disease, she said.

“I think Prof O’Neill is at the start of really good, exciting work. I think the whole understanding of glycolysis and the role it has to play [is very important] and we have seen therapeutic targets that might come out of the TCD group.

“I think the level of the scientific and oral presentations were probably better than any other year, and this has all evolved over the last 20 years to quite a high standard. Our Belgian colleague here [Prof Dirk Elewaut] was surprised at the numbers and standards of the science. I think there is a lot of good work being done, a huge amount from TCD and UCD, and also pockets of work being done in Cork, Galway, Sligo, Limerick and Belfast. I think the continued unrestricted funding from UCB for this Rheumatology Patient Improvement Fund (RPIF) also means that junior researchers who would not have been funded before to do clinical projects that affect patient care are getting funded, from all corners of Ireland.”

Another highlight of this year’s meeting was the awarding of the ISR Lifetime Achievement Award to leading Irish consultant rheumatologist and researcher Prof Oliver Fitzgerald at the gala dinner. “He has been known on the international circuit for years and is the new President of GRAPPA [Group for Research and Assessment in Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis]. There has never been an Irish President of a European organisation so while he is retiring from clinical practice, he will be keeping up our profile abroad.”

Welcoming the new National Model of Care for Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Disorders document, which was officially presented to the ISR at the meeting by National Clinical Programme for Rheumatology lead Prof David Kane, Dr Harney said its implementation would need significant manpower and resources for the specialty.

Dr Harney also commented on the importance of the meeting’s Private Practice and Clinical Advisory Group meetings: “The private practice rheumatologists are as important as the public practice and are very much part of the Society, and then the Clinical Advisory Group, with Prof Kane, is advocating the doubling of consultant numbers.”

So all in all, a lot of work to do to ensure rheumatology receives the attention it deserves to deal with ever-increasing demand.

“The downside for me is the persistent lack of infrastructure. It is particularly bad in the southern region; Cork, Kerry is a real black-spot with no political will to do anything down there, so that is the only real negative, but I think with time and energy, that will change. We have an awful lot of younger female and male trainees coming through so I think the specialty is in a really good place. And the addition of the Bernard Connor Student Medal means we are identifying younger doctors who want to come into our specialty,” she told MI.

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