Well – that’s over for another year.  In the run up to the event I started to understand why I had been forced to give up my career – the information overload was still a problem and with a hundred of different things to do to ensure that the conference was a success I soon realised my limitations.  In the end the conference proved to be our most successful ever with all of the speakers benefiting from the round table discussion and dinner that was held the night before.

THE ROUND TABLE DINNER:

I have gradually become aware that whilst there are a number of Academics, Clinicians and Clinical Researchers who are not only aware of the problems with the diagnosis and treatment of Pernicious Anaemia but also they are working on various aspects of the problems.  Whilst many of these are talking to me, they don’t seem to talk to each other.  And this is why I came up with the idea of a Round Table Dinner and Discussion where we, as a society, could put certain questions to the group with the hope that they might agree to a solution or at least a way forward.  The Dinner was held at the Bryngarw Country Park Hotel who gave us extremely favourable rates.  I invited the following:

Professor David Smith – Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology, University of Oxford.

Professor Helga Refsum – Professor of Nutrition, University of Oslo, Visiting Professor of Nutrition, University of Oxford.

Professor Martin Warren – Professor of Biochemistry, University of Kent

Dr Andrew McCaddon, MD, General Practitioner

Dr Anna Guildford, Senior Research Fellow, School of Pharmacy and Bio-molecular Science, University of Brighton

Dr Joseph Chandy, General Practitioner, B12 D Group, Durham

Dr Hugo Minney, B12 D Group, Durham

Dr Siddharth Banka, Clinical Senior Lecturer, University of Manchester

Dr Willemina Rietsema, General Practitioner, Oxford

Ms Petra Visser, Stichting B12 Tekort – Dutch B12 Support Group

 

The purpose of the dinner was to introduce the various attendees to each other.  The real discussion would take place after dinner when the guests would retire to the upstairs lounge of the hotel where Carrie-Anne Carr would ask the group to discuss four main questions: –

What can be done to improve the diagnosis of Pernicious Anaemia?

Why do some patients require more frequent injections than others?

What other methods could be used to deliver replacement therapy B12?

What are the main consequences of the problems with diagnosing and treating Pernicious Anaemia?

I wasn’t present at the discussion, but I received a report the next day and it seems that the questions were not able to be answered simply.  The discussion revolved around complex biochemistry and fundamental medical procedures.  I didn’t expect any concrete answers to the questions and I was not disappointed in that respect – but the discussion did make every guest aware of the problems with the diagnosis and treatment of Pernicious Anaemia; and perhaps more importantly how these problems were impacting on the everyday lives of patients.  The cost implications of the problems were estimated to be costing the UK’s NHS around £1 billion each year.

It was reassuring to note that the guests not only addressed the questions set but set about discussing them with enthusiasm and vigour.  I believe the whole event was a success and I know from telephone conversations with those who had been there that all participants learned something new to take back to their various institutions and laboratories where I am sure they will cascade their new found knowledge to their colleagues.

THE CONFERENCE:

It took an enormous amount of organising to make this happen.  Arrangements began back in April when the decision was taken to host the event at our offices – simply to save money not only on the accommodation but also on the catering.  Then there was also the issues of taxis to and from the office and reasonable overnight accommodation that had to be taken into consideration – it was obvious that, because the size of the office meant we could accommodate over 100 people, it would be sensible, and easier, to host the event in south Wales.  What really made up our minds (I say our because Carrie Ann was involved in organising the conference) was the fact that we couldn’t guarantee that holding the conference anywhere else in the UK – at a more central venue – would mean an increase in attendees.  We decided that the office would host the conference.

The first thing we had to do was to choose some of the round table delegates to present a ‘plain English’ version of their research interest at the conference.  I am pleased that 7 of the round table delegates agreed to give a short presentation.  Petra Visser who organises the Dutch B12 Group also agreed to speak.  Next I had to put together some kind of running order for the day which would take into consideration the speaker’s train times and distance from south Wales.  Once that was done it was a case of getting their presentations ahead of the day so that they could be loaded onto a computer ready.

Then there was the catering – who was going to do it?  What was our budget?  We toyed with the idea of making a load of sandwiches ourselves but then decided to buy in ready made ones from the local supermarket.  We then had to go about asking people to register and, in the event, around 70 people registered for the event but, on the day, only around 40 people who had registered turned up.  And there was another 40 people who turned up on the day without registering.  Anyway, our estimates were good and on the day everyone had something to eat.

THE VIDEO

One of our volunteers agreed to look after the audio visuals for the day and this was helped by the fact that his father, who is a sound engineer, agreed to help which he did by setting up the audio for the day.  However, when we came to the morning 0f the conference the microphones simply wouldn’t feed into the video and we had to rely on the camera microphone to capture the sound.  On top of that the lighting was inadequate because the sun decided to hide which meant that the video was dark.  Still, it was a good first attempt and it did record even if it wasn’t perfect.

Then there was parking reservations to organise, special dietary needs, hiring of extra chairs, roving microphones, t-shirts for the volunteers and other merchandise – a hundred different things to think about.  In the end everything worked out and all those who attended commented on what a wonderful time they had.  Maybe we might do it again!