Katie LeBlanc: Attending the Madrid Colloquium

It was truly an  honor to attend the XIX Cochrane Colloquium!  Indeed, arriving in Madrid October 17th after an overnight flight from Canada was incredibly exciting.  Prior to the journey I had registered in workshops that corresponded with my requirements for expanding knowledge and developing new skills for the benefit of Cochrane and particularly the consumers who read our reviews. The Colloquium’s schedule of workshops, presentations, and meetings sounded both inspiring and motivating.   The opportunity to join others who assist with the development and transfer of knowledge while continually aspiring to increase quality of life for humankind is both a privilege and a joy! Hats off to all those industriously wonderful people who developed and generated this marvelous event! The following is a summary of some of the XIX Cochrane Colloquium highlights.
Initially I participated in a workshop that was presented as a Consumer event, “Making sense of the evidence.”  The inclusive environment contributed to maximal interactive learning. In fact the active  collaboration between facilitators and audience initiated and optimized an excellent educational program. It is my hope that the facilitators of this event will receive due recognition for both their excellence in identifying ongoing effective learning material and for presenting their educational tools with the utmost of precision.  The well designed workshops I attended contributed towards enhancing my skills as a consumer, peer reviewer and review author.  It is exciting to hear about the development of new courses for consumer-advocate training, and the courses which are presently evolving and undergoing modification. 
The  Newcomers’ Session was a highly important positive exchange between seasoned Cochranites and new attendees.  This meeting, intended to welcome and engage newcomers to the multi faceted and appealing challenges of Cochrane work, through the many introductions, was of vital interest to participants and our small space was actually overflowing with enthusiasts.  Also,  on Oct. 19th, the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization presenters discussed the fact that they are in the process of assisting consumers towards a more panoramic view of educated choices.  A global strategy and plan of action on innovation and intellectual property rights was exceptionally well presented.
The plenary sessions with their distinguished speakers were thought-provoking as they provided excellent updates regarding healthcare quality and patient safety; and in general, evidence-based healthcare research, current challenges being faced, and initiatives planned for the future. The joint presentation on Thursday, October 20, was an excellent example of the efforts Cochrane has effected in helping to deal with the crisis of serious adverse events.  The Oct. 21st plenary session agenda included discussion regarding the World Health Organization’s contribution to Cochrane’s visibility and as well, future directions for Cochrane data and the possibilities of expansion and data-linking.
“Together we can …”  Although we are increasing patient education resources as we translate evidence from Cochrane reviews, practical methods and techniques for physicians to commence/continue to engage patients interaction in making treatment decisions appears to remain an unconquered challenge in many areas.  The following question remains to be answered “Are all physicians prepared to accept patient choices of treatment?”  Have we as yet reached this point?  I would like to hear more regarding effective strategies to assist with enhancing individual physician/patient interaction. 
‘Critical Appraisal Skills - Making sense of evidence about clinical effectiveness’ was well-attended and extremely relevant for consumers.  There was positive feedback within the attending group regarding the exercise we participated in and its benefits.   From my perspective, I found the methodology most valuable for organizing my work and the instruction was excellent and highly useful for peer reviewing.
These are just a few of the highlights of the many experiences I shared with other attendees at the XIX Cochrane Colloquium.  Participation in the Colloquium was a highly unique and most valuable learning experience for me and an excellent opportunity for renewing acquaintances, developing new networks, sharing experiences and generally gaining the knowledge to develop and refine my skills. Currently I am preparing a presentation on the healthcare initiatives, patient safety and Cochrane contribution based on the Colloquium, for a local healthcare group. The illness of diffuse systemic sclerosis has contributed to a more intimate understanding for me, and affiliation with multiple consumers’ medical concerns and challenges.  Education through the Colloquium has fostered my ability to keep current with new technologies, and our evolving healthcare system, while I embrace the joy of learning and cultivating new avenues and methods of facilitating consumers’ healthcare knowledge.
In summary I feel that the Colloquium was highly successful in fulfilling so many of our goals and objectives.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in the Colloquium.  It was such an immense surprise to learn I would be attending the event and I am most grateful for being selected as a stipend recipient by the C.C.Net Committee and for the enormous support and kind encouragement of our Cochrane IBD/FBD Group’s Managing Editor, John MacDonald. I applaud the facilitators of the XIX Cochrane Colloquium in Madrid, and all those involved in producing such a magnificent and successful event!

Katie LeBlanc, Canada