triMS-online: helping female academics

Another development at ECTRIMS 2018, which I heard about via the ECTRIMS grapevine, is that female academics are mobilising and have formed a group to demand gender equality at the top table of MS academia. Good!

Apparently, our posts on this blog (MS Establishment) and our recent letter to the Annals of Neurology (MSexism) has triggered a response from female neurologists and female academics working in the field of MS. The women involved have penned a letter that they are, or have, submitted to the Annals. I haven’t seen it, but I and sure it will address the issues at the heart of this debate.

From my perspective, three things happened at ECTRIMS that are relevant to this debate. Firstly, we held our first face-to-face ORATORIO-HAND (ocrelizumab in PPMS trial extending into wheelchair users) steering committee. The first, steering committee with close to 50% female representation; we wanted 50%, but due to family and other commitments some women who were approached were unable to participate; the female headcount is over 40%. 

Secondly, the Burning Debate at ECTRIMS this year was an all female affair. This was deliberate and was designed to counter the all-male debate we hosted last year. 

Thirdly, we have now launched triMS-online, the first virtual online conference for MS. The aims of triMS-online are multiple. You may remember that the original idea of triMS-online came from this blog. The objective is to do punchy, short, themed MS-related conferences online that can be viewed live or asynchronously in your own time. triMS-online is also environmentally friendly; imagine how many air miles we are avoiding by not having to fly people to conferences?

The other advantage of triMS-online is that it takes high-quality MS research and education to resource-poor environments across the globe. We want a new generation of MS researchers and HCPs to have access to the latest MS research and teaching. 

As founding chair of the scientific committee of triMS-online, I wanted to use the opportunity to shake things up a bit. When you go to ECTRIMS it is generally the same-old faces and KOLs on the platforms. We, therefore, invited a diverse group of ‘young’  MS academics from across the globe to run triMS-online and we made a strategic decision of having at least an equal number of women on the steering committee; in fact, 6 out of 10 members are women.

The following is the first triMS-online programme. We plan to run about 2-3 a year and have many ambitious plans for the triMS-online platform going forward. I, therefore, urge you to register. We will be inviting feedback, including suggestions for future meetings.

We would encourage young academics, in particular, those who are disadvantaged and from under-represented groups to submit ideas and posters for the next meeting.

CoI: multiple

10 thoughts on “triMS-online: helping female academics”

    1. Yes, this is OCTRIMS rebranded. The ECTRIMS executive committee did not want us to use the name OCTRIMS as it would be confused with ECTRIMS. So we went with triMS-online.

    1. Yes, for HCPs. When registering you have to tick a box stating you are a HCP. This relates to the satellite symposia sponsored by Pharma, they have rules. We are, however, working on running patient-orientated meetings for MSers so watch this space.

    2. So there is nothing stopping us claiming to be HCP? I would argue when it comes to MS some of us know more than our neurologists about managing MS 😉

    3. And is a HCP only a certified HCP? I was in hospital and the Health Care Assistant, grade 2, informed me they were a health care professional! As far as I understand you don't need any qualifications to become a health care assistant, as training is provided on the job.

  1. Can you please list the steering committee members? I can't find their names. I am very interested to see how diverse your list really is or this just another smokescreen to make you males feel better.

  2. As someone with MS for over 20 years, I'm getting pretty fed up with how, rather than solve the disease and come up with truly effective treatments for all stages of the disease, the MS research establishment is more focused on addressing all of society's inequalities – race, pay, gender… It's all very laudable, but means the real inequality (the unfortunate people who in the lottery of life pull out the ticket saying "you have won an incurable brain disease") is not being tackled as minds are more concerned with ensuring that committees and conferences fully reflect the make-up of our diverse society. The real issue regarding MS doctors and MS researchers is that most are white, male, middle class and attended private school. Over-representation of these groups is the issue, but unless there is a mass resignation things won't change for a long time. I suspect that the females who will attend / participate in the meeting will also mostly be white, middle class and have attended private school. This all reminds me of the V&A advertising campaign in the 1980s "an ace cafe with quite a nice museum attached". For the MS research establishment perhaps the strap line should be "seeking to solve all of societies inequalities and inequities, and occasionally studying a vile neurological disease which adversely affects millions".

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