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.
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!