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Dr Eslam Al-Abadi is a paediatric rheumatologist at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and the convenor of this year’s Paediatric and Adolescent Rheumatology Conference. Here he is talking about why the conference is so important for his specialty, how the programme’s changed this year; and his hopes for participants’ experience.


Why is the conference so important?

The Paediatric and Adolescent Rheumatology Conference is the only opportunity for the whole community to meet up – there’s no other paediatric training conference in the UK, and along with the Paediatric Rheumatology European Society (PReS)’s event, this is only other continuous professional development events dedicated to paediatric rheumatology that our members and trainees can attend. As we’re a relatively small community, most of us know each other name by name, so it’s also an opportunity for networking that we don’t get to repeat regularly.


Tell us about what we can expect from this year’s programme?

The biggest change we’ve made is that there’s a bigger parallel programme for allied health professionals (AHPs), which came from feedback from last year’s sessions. It was very clear that a lot of AHPs wanted to feel like more of the programme spoke to them, and we hope this expansion will address that.


There will be a whole session in the AHP programme dedicated to developing ideas into research. There will be a few slots ring-fenced within those sessions for AHP-led research presentations, in addition to the main research day programme.

I’m looking forward to learning about the burden of wrist arthritis in children with JIA and how surgical interventions can help improve their daily function and quality of life. I’m excited to hear about the genetics of lupus and also the Bio-FLARE study, understanding from adult rheumatology colleagues about the factors that can predict flare in rheumatoid arthritis.


Also, we’ll be learning from other specialties about how to use imaging technologies to provide patient-tailored treatments – one of our speakers is a professor of paediatric oncology, and will be explaining how to use imaging to look at a child’s brain and know what kind of cancer it is and its molecular and chemical characteristics. This means they can give tailored treatments without the need for invasive procedures – the question is, could this be transferred into inflammation and rheumatology?


Who is this conference for and why should they come?

This conference is for paediatric rheumatologists, AHPs, trainees in paediatric and adult rheumatology, paediatricians with an interest in rheumatology and adult rheumatologists who want to know more about paediatric rheumatology. It’s beneficial if you want to find out what other centres are doing, how you can learn from their work and assess if it’s feasible to transfer that into your own practice.


There will be topic reviews on SLE, JDM and Behcets, there will be information on the latest development in fields of science that may have an overlap with paediatric rheumatology. There will be really high-quality speakers talking about national clinical and translational research.


If you’re an AHP, there is a dedicated session for how AHPs can get started in participating in research; if you’re from a charity there is a dedicated meeting that is also planned as a parallel session during the conference.


More than anything else, I hope that people will have a good time at the conference and feel that the programme is specifically aimed at them.