© Luca Sola
22 Sep 16 10 Jul 18

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.

Missed the events or want to watch again? Videos, slides, abstracts, and posters are available online at F1000Research for the Research and Innovation Days.

MSF Scientific Days continues with the Southern Africa Day on 6 July and South Asia Day on 16 July.

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:

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?

Finally, the star of the day was Nubia – the first ever baby infected with Ebola to have survived, whose story was told in a presentation on Ebola in pregnant women.

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.

Nan Buzard, head of innovation at ICRC picked up on this theme, chairing a people-powered innovation session that showcased collaborative approaches to MSF field challenges.

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).

A highlight of the afternoon was a presentation on the application of 3D printing technologies to make upper limb prosthetics for Syrian children.

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

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!