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MSF Scientific Days 2018: Snapshot
Over 10,000 people from 102 countries attended or participated online in the MSF Scientific Days 2018 held in London 24 and 25 May, while around 30,000 people watched Facebook live videos from the days, including this demo of a wearable chemical weapons decontamination kit.
Research Day key messages
In a powerful and sobering Keynote Speech, ‘rockstar’ Professor Adil Najam reminded us that now, more than ever, suffering due to bad policy and extreme inequality greatly outweighs deaths and suffering due to immediate physical violence, and described the challenges for the humanitarian community, now that “We are in the age of adaptation to climate change.”
Kiran Jobanputra (MSF) summed up key questions for MSF arising from the day:
1. In the future, who will MSF’s patients be?
Will our patients include those suffering from bad policy and inequality -- slum workers, prisoners, and pregnant women – who remain victims of structural barriers to care, as highlighted by Chair Edna Adan Ismail, Midwife and founder of the non profit Edna Adan Hospital in Somaliland.
2. What will MSF offer?
While continuing to strive for innovative health care, with new, simplified approaches, can we also do more to restore dignity and reduce distress? This was the challenge put forth by Leigh Snyman (MSF), in a moving presentation on palliative care.
3. What role will our research play?
Research needs to be purposeful, as Clair Mills (MSF) noted in her opening comments:
- Research can be part of an agenda for policy change – as presentations on leishmaniasis treatment, seasonal malaria chemoprevention, and antibiotic prophylaxis for meningococcal meningitis exemplified.
- Research can be part of improving field programmes – for instance in developing post-natal clubs, or real-time modelling for diphtheria outbreaks.
- And can and should be part of bearing witness to unacknowledged needs and suffering to draw attention and effect political response.
Overall - can we meet the challenge of our panellist, Anthony Costello and do more in the face of bad policy, healthcare exclusion and other forms of structural violence whose effects we witness?
Innovation Day key messages
Keynote speaker, Ben Ramalingam, challenged MSF, and others, to take a truly people-centred approach to innovation in emergency settings, focusing on the communities we serve, but also on how, and with whom, we collaborate.
Just before lunch, we strapped on a rocket pack and hurtled through the elevator pitches, giving the stage to twelve innovators to pitch their projects in one minute and with one slide.
Multiple rounds of applause followed the presentation of a failed innovation for treating leishmaniasis, but this was the only failure presented, leading us to ask whether we truly embrace and celebrate failure and risk (despite it being a focus of previous MSF Scientific Days).
Kiran Jobanputra ended the day, asking to what extent are people and patients really at the centre of our innovation work? Do we focus on technology at the expense of the personal and the social? And, if engagement, humanity and inclusion are principles we should aspire to, does MSF need to change?
As Nan Buzard said: “will empathy make us more people-centred?” The answer is yes, of course.
Thank you to the thousands of people who participated in this year’s MSF Scientific Days.
The MSF Scientific Days are a collaborative effort and we would like to extend special thanks to all our audiences, presenters, poster authors, chairs, speakers, editorial and steering committees, volunteers, venues, and sponsors.
See you next year!