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ABN 2020: The virtual experience

Posted in Association of British Neurologists Trainees,Courses & Conferences on 16th Nov 2020

Conference details: ABN 2020
Date: The meeting spread over 9 weeks with a main meeting day on Friday 16 October, preceded and succeeded by four Thursday night sessions. 
Report by: Amy Ross Russell. Amy is a LTFT Neurology Trainee in Southampton, UK. She is currently an NIHR Research fellow at University Hospital Southampton Clinical Research Facility. She is chair of the Association of British Neurologists Trainees Committee, and as such represents UK Neurology Trainees on the Neurology Speciality Advisory Committee, Joint Clinical Neurosciences Committee, and Association of British Neurologists council. She also represents UK trainees on the European Academy of Neurology Research and Residents fellows Section She is committed to promoting equality within neurology training, and has a clinical interest in neurological infection.
Conflict of interest statement: None declared.

If you look back to your copy of ACNR from early March, you will see Richard Davenport promising a spectacular and sunny meeting in Bournemouth. But as 2020 had other plans, the ABN annual meeting, like many, underwent significant revisions this year, adapting to the current restrictions and requirements for fun, virtual learning.

The result? A flexible feast of neurology.

Following on from the success of the “lockdown lectures” aimed at neurology trainees earlier in the year, the ABN meetings committee adapted the programme of the planned annual meeting to fit in to a series of Thursday evening lectures, sandwiching a clinically focused day, that incorporated the firm favourites of the meeting.

On the 16th October, our main day saw Hadi Manji draw comparisons between COVID-19 and the viral pandemics of the past, with important lessons for us all. Rustam Al-Shahi Salman brought us up to speed with the syndromes we have been seeing as a consequence of COVID-19 infection, and reminded us there’s no such thing as a free school trip, and Chris Kipps took us elegantly through the changes that have been required by Neurologists through the pandemic, and the positive effects that have been seen on reported rates of burnout.

The day continued with a clinical focus, with exceptional talks from Mark Roberts and Hannah Cock, on two of the most anxiety provoking neurological presentations – acute respiratory failure, and status epilepticus – with pithy, practical, priceless advice.

The day finished on an absolute high, as anyone who watched Lucy Kinton deliver the CPC will confirm. A devilish case, elegantly broken down so that even the most junior amongst us felt empowered to tackle the next diagnostic conundrum. And if the presentation itself hadn’t been impressive enough, she even managed to generate a cliff hanger by disconnecting her internet in the final seconds before her denouement – Genius!

The evening sessions which have sandwiched this, combine the best offerings from the planned meeting programme, and cover a broad range – from therapeutics, offering hope to those suffering with (and treating!) migraine, and a breakdown of the implications of MS therapies during current times, to advances in technology that dramatically expand the information available to us, through remote monitoring systems, and genomic sequencing, so long as we are equipped with the skills to interpret these – and find the signal in the noise.

There were excellent clinical talks, with invaluable wisdom- highlighting red flags in adult cerebral palsy, taking us through challenging cases by video, and dissecting out tremor and ataxia for the general Neurologist.

The final two weeks have been particularly enjoyable for me, seeing so many of the trainees around the country demonstrate the amazing work they have been doing. The platform and poster presentations have been exceptional, hugely varied and such a reflection of what a fascinating and varied area neurology is. Congratulations to all those who were shortlisted for these sessions, and congratulations to the winners – Edwin Jabbari, London, (Variation at the LRRK2 locus determines the rate of disease progression in progressive supranuclear palsy), Ingrid Hoeritzauer, Edinburgh (The clinical features and prognosis of scan negative cauda equina), Hannah Glasse, Manchester (Is there a positive correlation between single breath count and forced vital capacity), Sabrina Kalam, Imperial, London (a case of bad altitude) and Rebecca Hodnett, Bristol (Quality improvement: Re-structuring the neurology ‘In-hours’ on-call service at North Bristol Trust) for winning best platforms, poster, clinical case presentation, and quality improvement project prizes.

Incorporated within the conference were attempts to mitigate the detrimental effect of not being able to hold a face-to-face meeting.  We hope people enjoyed the virtual fun run, morning yoga session, and the head-scratching musical quiz. Whilst this year definitely suffered for a lack of face to face, and evening refreshment, it also served as a reminder of what a great, diverse community there is within neurology, and I was amazed by the enthusiasm and energy that was retained.

I’m sure we are all hoping that it won’t be long before we can once again meet face to face. In the meantime, we are keen to gather your thoughts and feedback from the virtual meeting this year and are particularly grateful for suggestions of innovative ways to harness the energy and community which we have seen this year and breathe some life in to the next virtual meeting.