Let’s talk about… going to conferences as a researcher.

The researcher’s perspective – Jude

The World Parkinson Congress (WPC) is an international conference, held every 3 years, that provides a unique forum for researchers, clinicians and patients from across the world to meet and share knowledge about the latest developments in Parkinson’s research and treatment. The WPC’s goal is “to advance an all-encompassing approach to the treatment of Parkinson’s by bringing together the full spectrum of those who serve the Parkinson’s community and those who live with PD”.

My first WPC experience was Portland 2016, and as an early career researcher I was lucky to be awarded a travel grant to attend the congress. What first struck me was the number of people with Parkinson’s who had travelled to be there, and I immediately realised that WPC was going to be different to any of the other international conferences I’d been to. As much as I enjoyed hearing about the latest advances from world-leading experts, I also had the opportunity to gain insights directly from people with Parkinson’s, whether through discussing my research at the poster session or just chatting in the coffee breaks. This was a something I had not experienced before at a conference, and it reinforced the importance of our efforts as researchers to try and improve understanding of Parkinson’s and outcomes for those living with it.

I had met Colin, a person with Parkinson’s and research advocate, in the North West of England where we had begun to explore potential collaborative links, and was pleased to hear that he would also be going to the congress in Portland. It turned out Colin was already a WPC veteran, and when we met up again (in the Northwest USA this time) he introduced me to some of his contacts. Both Colin and I were also very fortunate to be able to attend the next WPC in 2019, in the beautiful city of Kyoto. By now we had discovered a shared interest in dance (mine from a scientific perspective; Colin’s as an aspiring tap dancer) and had worked on a research project together in Manchester. There is increasing interest among the Parkinson’s community in non-medical, widely available options such as dance (among others) to improve everyday life with the condition, and it was good to see this well represented in the 2019 program.

I would really encourage fellow researchers to attend the WPC for the opportunities it provides to make connections and gain insights from others working across different sections of the Parkinson’s community. However, WPC is more than an academic meeting. There is a great mix of talks, exhibitors, and creative projects to immerse yourself in, and the atmosphere is truly inspiring.

I’m looking forward to the next WPC in Barcelona in June 2022, which I hope will see a greater presence from across the Parkinson’s community (scientists, clinicians and patients) in Europe. Starting in May 2021, there will also now be a virtual congress in the years between the triennial event, providing an opportunity to keep up to date with the latest developments.

Jude Bek

judith.bek@manchester.ac.uk

@jude_bek

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