Scientific conferences are fascinating events. You get a chance to mingle with some of the leading researchers and thinkers in the field, and to learn about the latest advances. But, to be honest, for those of us who don’t have a scientific background, they can also be a little bit intimidating.
This is sometimes how I feel at them.
That’s where the World Stem Cell Summit comes in. It’s an annual event that brings together researchers, companies, scientists and patient advocates to talk about the progress being made in stem cell research and to explore ways to advance the field even further, and faster by working together.
Changing the tone
The patient advocate role is a critical one here. It makes the voice of the patient a key element in every discussion and changes the tone of the event from talking about what is being done to or for patients, to what is being done with patients. It’s a small but tremendously important difference.
Dr. Evan Snyder, Director of the Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine program at Sanford – Burnham Medical Research Institute captures that feel when he says:
“We’re looking forward to the valuable information-sharing opportunities and discussions that only occur when stem cell researchers, patient advocates, and representatives of many other stakeholder groups converge at the World Stem Cell Summit. Occasions like these help us advance our research on the basic biology of stem cells and spur the development of new, and more personalized, medical applications for this science.”
Because more than ten percent of those attending are patient advocates the talks are given at a level that someone without a science background can generally understand. The presentations are no less fascinating; they are just a lot more accessible.
Stephen Rose, the Chief Research Officer with the Foundation Fighting Blindness says it brings different groups together in a way other conferences usually don’t:
“Policy experts learned about researchers’ needs. Advocates learn about policy and legislation. It also brought ethical issues to the table, which is critical if we’re going to resolve them and keep the research moving forward.”
Researchers have a lot of opportunities throughout the year to meet with other scientists but patient advocates don’t, so the World Stem Cell Summit is a great chance for them to meet with their colleagues and counterparts from all over the US. It gives them a chance to share ideas, offer support and explore ways they can collaborate.
More than just a meeting
For many advocates who are focused on diseases that affect relatively small numbers of people these events are a great way to recharge their batteries and to remind themselves they are not alone in this fight.
If you are thinking about going to one conference this year, this is a great one to chose. This year the World Stem Cell Summit is being held December 10 – 12 in Atlanta, Georgia.
We’ll be there and we’d love to see you there too.