22 Sep 16 29 Nov 16

MSF Scientific Days: 2016 snapshot

The MSF Scientific Days 2016 took place in London, New Delhi and Johannesburg. Over 11,000 people from 125 countries participated.

The London and New Delhi events were livestreamed and the London event was live-translated into French. The Twitter account @MSF_arabic also translated social media messages into Arabic for presentations relating to the Middle East

Take a look at videos, presentations and posters from the days (opens a new window).  

Key Messages from the MSF Scientific Days

Syria – the need to do more, do it better, and be creative in how we work.

Zaher Sahloul’s keynote on the medical and humanitarian situation in Syria silenced the room, a first in the history of the conference.  Zaher also took part in a demonstration session where he showed the technology allowing his organisation to support intensive care units in besieged areas of Syria.

Joana Borrero Luz of MSF described in her presentation the use of innovative methods to gather data on populations in Syria where we lack direct access.

Similarly, in the MSF Scientific Day South Africa a key theme was the appropriate use of technology in patient care in remote and difficult settings

Humanity, relationships, community engagement are central – whether designing technology, running a refugee camp, or delivering HIV care.

The key importance of patient self-empowerment was a strong theme at the MSF Scientific Day South Africa, in particular the role of civil society in driving demand for viral load testing in HIV and that patients receiving treatment for DRTB do not need to be kept “ under the eye” of a health professional every day.

Zubin Damania aka ZDoggMD – (the first rapper at the MSF Scientific Days) was hilarious and also highly relevant as he outlined a model of health technology that enhances, rather than hinders, the relationship between health-care providers and patients.

Kilian Kleinschmidt, also focused on the importance of a non-hierarchical relationship between beneficiaries and organisations.

Shona Horter describing the outcomes of an HIV programme in Swaziland delivering early access to treatment noted how patients resisted treatment in hierarchical relationships where they felt coerced by health-care providers

Innovation needs rigorous evaluation and the willingness to "fail forward and learn"

“Fail forward and learn” was the key message delivered by Robin Vincent-Smith at the innovation pitch session, and exemplified in a presentation by Rob Marr on evaluation of an electronic medical record (for emergencies). 

Choose the right research questions then make sure your findings lead to change.

Kamalini Lokuge, chair of a session on community involvement, commenting on a presentation by Kevin Phelan of ALIMA in which mothers rather than community health workers screened their kids for malnutrition, which has huge potential impact: that’s the definition of great research; once you find it, it is obvious”.

This theme was echoed at MSF Scientific Day South Africa with a discussion of the impact of timely and relevant operational research that is appropriately implemented referencing the original work by Tom Decroo in 2010 on community antiretroviral groups in HIV treatment delivery that acted as  launch pad for further operational research resulting in national and regional scale up of this model.

Kiran Jobanputra in his round up at the end of the Innovation day cautioned that “great research alone is not enough”, we need to implement findings, citing the diabetes insulin study from MSF Scientific Days 2015 – huge potential impact but so far not implemented in MSF.

Overall, in a survey of the impact of work presented at Sci Day 2015, around 65 percent of studies had had some direct impact on field programmes.

Ethics systems in humanitarian settings need work – for both research and innovation

Most delegates thought the ethics system is not suitable for research in emergencies.

In a debate session, Monica Rull, an MSF Operations Health Adviser argued that the system was "more focussed on procedural integrity than ethical reasoning" and that "even if we think we are following the steps we might be fooling ourselves" in terms of informed consent. She called for a system that was timely, flexible, and able to give direct advice at field level.

In response, Julian Sheather, Ethics Adviser to the BMA, noted that "no vulnerable human being should be a means to someone else’s ends" and did change some minds.

However, Armand Sprecher, the chair, was less impressed, caustically summing up by thanking the conference organisers for "inviting an ethicist to give epidemiologists a lesson in survivor bias".

In the Innovation Day, Robin Vincent-Smith introduced the draft MSF ethics framework for innovation, and its key question was posed by Rob Marr in his electronic medical record presentation: "How do you innovate safely without putting patients at risk?"

Drug resistant infections: challenges of resource-rich world also faced in humanitarian settings – we just often fail to investigate or diagnose them late.

A presentation on an outbreak of drug-resistant infection in a neonatal intensive care unit in Haiti, posters on antibiotic stewardship and on high levels of resistant infection in post-conflict injuries highlighted the need for better diagnostic and systematic response including infection control and antibiotic stewardship

Hepatitis C is a challenging disease but good treatment outcomes are possible in vulnerable groups as long as access to affordable drugs is maintained.

South Asia is a hotspot for HCV and a full session at the MSF Scientific Day South Asia was dedicated to the exciting new developments and the never ending challenges associated with this disease.

Presentations included encouraging data on treating HCV patients at the primary care level in a slum of Karachi, a comprehensive model of care for injecting drug users and HIV co-infected patients in north east India, and the achievements and future challenges in ensuring access to new effective and affordable drugs.

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Online discussion

The hashtag #MSFsci was mentioned more than 4,000 times.We had tweets from all around the world. Take a look at some of the highlights

Media coverage

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who made MSF Scientific Days such a success - our presenters, poster authors, editorial committee, sponsors and the 11,000 plus people who joined us.