Recently back from 4 days learning and networking at the IBIA Congress in
Dublin, I have had a bit of time to reflect.….
Having attended the event previously in 2016, it was exciting to be back and witness the progress made by the brilliant network of researchers and clinicians in the field.
Several themes and ideas stood out;
Current & prominent topics in ABI: The programme of the conference covered a wide range of topics related to brain injury, notable topics stood out for their frequent appearance, including;
Collaboration around the globe: More than ever collaborative work is happening around the globe. Almost every title slide demonstrated the international level of cooperation, co-working and sharing. This has always been the case but seemed more widespread and I wondered – alongside policies that promote collaboration - whether new levels of connectedness during the pandemic have been one of the
For example, I attended an afternoon on social and cognitive communication disorders. Speech therapists/pathologists from around the world presented and discussed their work. The way in which they support and drive forward the work and each other was inspiring. I have never been in a room full of so many speech therapists, leaving me wondering what their collective noun might be…..? Later over coffee a Canadian speech therapist described how working together globally is a powerful way to move the research work forward in their relatively small profession.
Co-creation between ABI survivors and professionals: Throughout the entire event the respect for those who survive brain injury and their family and social networks was palpable, the learning from their experiences was frequently referenced. What was notable in addition, was ever evolving and increasing levels of co-creation between brain injury survivors and professionals within both research and therapeutic work.
The power of learning from observation: There were ‘pin drop’ moments and in the sessions I attended these were unvaryingly connected to real lived experiences. During sessions looking at psychological approaches to couples therapy after ABI, the intimacy of watching generously shared videos of real life psychology sessions was incredibly powerful and emotional. During the questions and comments it was clear how moved and grateful we all were for this opening up of what is more usually behind closed doors.
Accessible, attainable research: There is always so much more to explore and investigate, this can sometimes feel quite a task as the human brain remains in many ways a mystery and yet this community of people have endless curiosity, energy and enthusiasm to keep unravelling the mystery.
The speakers, poster presenters, and session chairs made research feel accessible and attainable. The conference highlighted how national frameworks worldwide shape experiences, progress and learning differently.
In-person impact on learning and belonging: I noticed - in the way that one does these days - the importance of being in person together, the social aspects that prompt further discussion and depth of understanding. Comparing thoughts on a presentation, visiting a poster and probing the author about their work. As ever I felt that special ‘click’ with others interested in ABI – we connect via a common desire to lean into the challenges and captivating aspects of brain injury, we share in the fascination and delight in hearing each others’ tales of unusual and interesting cases. I reflected on being part of a ‘fellowship’ and that this therefore was my ‘international fellowship’.
Concluding my reflections:
This meeting of people brought together brilliant minds in the field. It was thrilling to be in the room with them, to meet them and to listen to their wisdom, thoughts and ideas. The warmth, support, and encouragement throughout the community of people involved in the world of brain injury was inspiring as were the moments when a question or comment clearly resonated as a new thought, idea or perspective demonstrating the power of a congress of people to produce these moments.
The event provoked the thought of a brain-like analogy – a complex network of different areas specialising in all manner of aspects, linked and working together in specific areas. Whilst sending out information to the greater whole and creating new connections, which may well evolve into pathways which pull together more than one aspect into a new activity. It is shaped by its internal and external environment, factors known, unknown and yet to be revealed ….
For me the strength of the MDT and the strength of teams across the globe in striving to do better to enhance recovery, progress and quality of life stood out as did the gratitude toward all presenters for sharing their valuable findings, knowledge and experience.
So roll on IBIA Congress 2025 in Montreal – I can’t wait!
Vicki Gilman MSc MCSP
Case Manager at Social Return