Guest blogger : Hélène Jamann (PhD candidate)
The 2019 endMS Conference took place in Calgary, Alberta with a cold and snowy backdrop – a perfect winter setting. For a PhD student, like myself, this conference is a unique occasion to meet with MS researchers from across the country and connect with members of the MS Society of Canada.
One of the most valuable parts of the conference was the opportunity for students, like me, to speak with people affected by MS regarding their life experiences, daily challenges and hopes for innovative research. As a PhD student working on a potential new therapeutic, I had the chance to describe my research directly to those affected by MS, and to hear from them and answer any questions they have about research and current advances in MS. The people I spoke with were curious and full of hope about my research and the work of my colleagues. These exchanges helped me to better understand the importance of my research and its potential impact. It left me feeling inspired and re-energized, with a better grasp of what is at stake. Another valuable session held during the conference provided students with an opportunity to meet and network with professionals from diverse areas, including professionals from pharmaceutical companies, government, academia, and not-for-profit organizations. Each professional gave us an overview of potential carrier paths to consider. This gave me a positive outlook on the future.
The endMS Conference featured various scientific talks within four themes, from public health to fundamental science. My primary expertise is in fundamental research, and at first, I was apprehensive about clinical and public health talks, however, I was pleasantly surprised by the speakers who presented their work in a clear and accessible way. I especially enjoyed the energy of Dr. Patricia Coyle, who spoke with strength and conviction about MS prevention and risk factors. I also enjoyed Dr. Marcia Finlayson’s presentation that highlighted the importance of MS caregivers. I also found the talks focused on the underlying mechanisms of MS to be exceptional, providing me with new ideas for my own research, including interesting techniques that I will further explore, such as advanced myelin visualization and spectral imaging (a technique allowing to visualize multiple cellular types in a single picture).
The endMS Conference program was intense and ambitious – long days filled with scientific discussion among a highly motivated and engaged group. These four days taught me so much about MS, extending my knowledge beyond my own area of research, and gave me the opportunity to exchange details about my research with people from various disciplines and areas of expertise.
Overall, this gathering left me filled with hope. Whatever perspective we bring or where we come from, as researchers, patients or those affected by MS; we are all on the same side — against MS.