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The 2024 PRF-NAPS Correspondents Blog: Preview

PRF-NAPS Correspondents

21 June 2024

Featured (NAPS Logo #1)

Five early-career pain researchers are participating in the PRF-NAPS Correspondents program during the 2024 North American Pain School, taking place 23-28 June in Montebello, Québec City, Canada. The Correspondents program is a unique science communication training program that provides participants with knowledge and skills needed to communicate science effectively to a wide range of pain researchers, patients, and the greater public. The Correspondents will conduct interviews with NAPS Visiting Faculty and Patient Partners and provide live blogging, too! Take a look at their first blog posts below.   


NAPS Preview Blog Posts

The NAPS Effect

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Anticipation

What Is That?

Make the Most of Your Time

The Summer of Jamie


The NAPS Effect

In preparation for NAPS, I feel a type of excitement like my first day of kindergarten or my first hockey game. What do I need to prepare? Do I bring my favorite ugly hoodie, or is that a bad idea? So many questions and a whirlwind of emotions have crossed my mind. One thing is certain – I feel blessed and can’t wait to set foot in Montebello.


I tell everyone that I’m not nervous, but … let’s be honest; that’s not true. As a former athlete, I am used to being nervous before an important game or a tournament, but now it feels different. It’s a completely new, exciting kind of “stress.”


Conferences and Zoom meetings I know how to handle. Yoga? Summer courses? Student debates? These are new. It’s unsettling but also refreshing. As a student working on sex and gender, I always say we need to do science differently! NAPS is doing science differently.


I’ve looked several times at the list of NAPS participants and mentors…. Wow! It’s a privilege. How did I end up among all these exceptional people? I don’t know, but one thing is certain – this impostor syndrome is transforming into recognition. I’m excited to learn from all these researchers with such diverse backgrounds.


In anticipation of NAPS, I’m setting myself the goal of embracing surprises. Do I like surprises? Not at all. This week, however, I want to ride the NAPS wave (not the rafting wave everyone talks about on day four – preferably a calmer one). I will immerse myself in this experience, which many say is truly transformative.

I feel nervous, animated, privileged, and surprised, which obviously spells “NAPS.” What a coincidence! Am I becoming a poet? Is the NAPS effect already taking over? 

Marimée Godbout-Parent is a PhD candidate at the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Canada. You can follow her on Twitter/X – @marimeeparent12. 

Marimée achieved her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 2020 at the University of Ottawa, Canada, where she also completed a minor in psychology while pursuing her sports career in women’s hockey. Following her master’s degree, she began a doctoral degree in health sciences in 2022 at the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Canada, under the supervision of Anaïs Lacasse and Nancy Julien. Her project focuses on the associations among sex, gender, the use of physical/psychological/pharmacological treatments, and health care utilization in people living with chronic pain. She is passionate about research and especially about science communication.


How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Anticipation

What a tremendous honor to be welcomed into the pain research community through NAPS! I hear this is where we find lasting colleagues and build foundations that could decide our futures – no pressure!

I’m also setting unnecessarily high expectations for myself. I plan to share my “puzzle piece” to help complete the giant portrait of pain, represent my humble yet excellent labs/mentors from the University of Alberta, and be a voice for neuroimmunology in pain.

My favorite thing about summer school is how it assembles a band of brilliant hopefuls in what I’ve jokingly dubbed “Summer Camp for Nerds.” As a foundational science researcher, I would like to experience a refreshing “mind-stretch” to explore the psycho-socio-clinical impacts and influences of pain. Who better to immerse with than like-minded peers and patient partners?

I’m also coming to NAPS with a selfish mission in mind. As a third-year PhD student, I have decisions for my future looming. During NAPS, my goal is to solidify my plans for postgraduate studies! I hope to find my fit in industry as a proud Filipina and Canadian, and grow in the workforce that feeds my passion for the pursuit of discovery in service to the community.

Could this be the event that will drive me to a postdoc? Or will I find the industry job of my unexpected dreams? Or do I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? Or a secret fourth thing? 

Well, let’s find out together! Join me on my adventure this week through these blogs and my live tweets/Instagram stories!

Madelene Faye Ho is a PhD student at the University of Alberta, Canada. You can follow her on Twitter/X and Instagram – @iammadho. 

Madelene is a PhD student in the Neuroimmunology and Pain Labs at the University of Alberta, Canada, supervised by Bradley Kerr and Jason Plemel. Her project investigates roles and dynamics of various macrophages in the peripheral nervous system under peripheral nerve injury-induced neuropathic pain. When not in the lab (which is not often), she loves to think about the lab and how much work she should be getting done. She also likes to watch movies, play board games, cycle, and watch video essays on movies. 


What Is That?

After months of planning, writing, and submitting my application for admission into the North American Pain School 2024, I was overjoyed when I received my letter of acceptance in March. What followed next was an overflow of excitement until my husband congratulated me and said, “That’s amazing! What is that?” I realized that I really had no idea.

What followed over the next few months gave rise to a variety of feelings. I was excited and grateful to be granted this wonderful opportunity. I was satisfied with the menu options for the various meals I’d be consuming. I was nervous to leave my family for a week and surround myself with strangers. I was intrigued by the list of discussion topics, guest speakers, and workshops. I was relieved that I would not be the first on the list of trainees to present their work. Finally, I was terrified when I saw that white-water rafting was on the itinerary. After speaking with numerous students who have attended NAPS – and learning that they only had positive things to say about the program – all my feelings quickly merged into excitement…. Except for the white-water rafting fear. That fear is still very real!

I’m looking forward to the thoughtfully structured NAPS program. The days will be jam-packed with learning opportunities, the facility has numerous amenities available (I’m going to take advantage of the hot tub!), and the guest speakers are well equipped with a vast amount of knowledge on various aspects of pain. I plan to step out of my comfort zone to network with like-minded individuals who may share my interest in studying pediatric pain, and perhaps my fear for water sports, too. It’s going to be a great week!

Morgan MacNeil, RN, is a PhD candidate at Dalhousie University, Canada. You can follow her on Twitter/X – @morganxmacneil. 

Morgan is a registered nurse and PhD candidate at Dalhousie University, Canada, under the supervision of Marsha Campbell-Yeo. Morgan’s interest is pain assessment and management in infants with – and at risk for – intellectual disabilities. Morgan’s received numerous sources of funding for her doctoral degree including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Doctoral Award (2023), holding an editorial fellowship with the American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, being a REACH learner with the Empowering Next Generation Researchers in Perinatal and Child Health (ENRICH), and Increasing Capacity for Maternal and Paediatric Clinical Trials (IMPaCT) curriculums. Her most prized accomplishment is working in a research field that will advance care for vulnerable populations, including her younger sister, who has Down syndrome.


Make the Most of Your Time

As NAPS approaches, I feel a combination of excitement and nerves. I’ve anticipated attending NAPS since I first started my PhD program after hearing from fellow students and postdocs what a wonderful experience it was for them! This year’s theme – Pain: Prevention, Treatment, or Cure – also feels like the perfect fit, since it aligns closely with my main interest: Pain treatments and how we can prevent/cure chronic pain.

My love for learning has always been what motivates me. Not just what I learn but the process of learning. From teaching one another in study groups to mingling by posters at conferences, the scientific community makes the research process that much more special. NAPS really gives me the opportunity to expand my community by spending a week in a small group setting among other brilliant students, postdocs, patient partners, and faculty.

Rima’s labs’ bracelets from Japan

Something I’ll be forever grateful for during my PhD work is the incredible friends I’ve made along the way. I’ve been reminiscing quite a bit recently as this spring season transitions to summer and several members in my lab are now successfully completing their MSc programs and postdocs. It’s hard knowing that they won’t be here during the final stretch of my PhD program, but I’m also just grateful for the time I did get to spend with them.

It never feels like there’s enough time with the incredible people you meet along your journey. So I hope to make the most of the time I do have at NAPS building and strengthening the friendships I form with the incredible people I get to meet! 

Rima El-Sayed is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, Canada. You can follow her on Twitter/X – @RimaElSayed1.

Rima is a PhD candidate in Karen Davis’ lab at the University Health Network’s Krembil Research Institute and in the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto, Canada. She has always been passionate about a career in neuroscience research, and during her PhD she has collected various psychophysical and neuroimaging data from healthy individuals and those with chronic pain. Her research focus is on analyzing conditioned pain modulation (CPM) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) collected before spinal cord stimulation treatment to discover predictors of treatment outcome. Outside of the lab, Rima loves trying new food, fashion, traveling, and playing table tennis!


The Summer of Jamie

I’m writing this first blog post as I sit at my lab desk. It’s 9:22 on a Friday night. I should be home (or at a bar), but, as is often the case, science calls. So what better time to think about where I’ll be just nine days from now: Montebello, Québec City, Canada, with 30 other early-career pain researchers, plus established professors, physicians, and patient partners. We’ll be spending a full week together learning about the latest in pain research and treatment – and I mean full. The schedule informs me that we will start every morning at 7:00 with yoga, followed by a day of presentations and workshops that last until well after sunset. There’s also a debate (about what, I couldn’t say) and the (in)famous white-water rafting trip at the end of the week.

How am I feeling (I hear the prompt from our Correspondents’ briefing ask in my head)? It’s my busiest summer yet… I’m less than a year away from achieving my PhD and returning to clinical rotations to complete my MD degree, so my days in the lab are getting longer and my timeline more cramped. It’s also a summer of travel. I’ve just returned from Philadelphia to record my first-ever podcast live show, with only a week to fit in more experiments before heading off to NAPS. Later in the summer I’ll be flying to Amsterdam for IASP’s 2024 World Congress on Pain to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

For me, NAPS feels like an important opportunity at a busy – and critical – time in my career. I’m finally making tangible discoveries as a pain researcher, while coming into my own as a science communicator. Being a PRF-NAPS Correspondent feels like a culmination of both of these efforts, and an opportunity to take them both in new and interesting directions. I can’t wait to see where this experience – with these people – takes me.

Jamie Moffa is a PhD candidate at Washington University, USA. You can follow them on Twitter/X – @thatbrass.

Jamie is an MD PhD student in their fifth year at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Their goal is to work in anesthesiology with a focus on pain medicine and continuing basic pain research. Jamie also hosts In Plain English, a science communication podcast about making science approachable, open source, and jargon free. In their free time, Jamie plays trumpet in a local community band, enjoys board games, and takes their dog Buckingham on adventures. 


The 2024 PRF-NAPS Correspondents

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