Five pain researchers are participating in the PRF-ISPP 2023 Correspondents Program covering the International Symposium on Pediatric Pain, which took place 1-4 October 2023 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Correspondents Program is a unique science communication training program that provides participants with the knowledge, skills, and best practices needed to communicate science effectively to a wide range of pain researchers, patients, and the greater public. The Correspondents will conduct interviews with pain professionals, write summaries of scientific lectures – and provide live blogging, too! Take a look at their final blog posts reflecting on ISPP 2023 below.
See previous blog posts about this meeting below:
ISPP Blog Posts: Reflections
During our last day at ISPP 2023, Elliot Krane delivered the Distinguished Career Award plenary lecture and highlighted how far pain research in both adults and paediatrics has progressed over the past 40 years. While the tangible and theoretical outputs from pediatric pain research are still well behind those of adults, it’s clear we need to better understand and manage pain in children.
One could argue that studying pain in children is more complex than in adults. Children go through huge developmental changes – social, hormonal, cognitive, emotional, and physical – and the period of “childhood” (0 to 18 years) spans a large spectrum of these changes. Then there are parents and/or caregivers who are also complex. Near the conclusion of adolescence, children start transitioning into adulthood, where they have more agency and independence in their healthcare. Adolescence is also a critical period of finding identity and one’s place in the world. While this all presents challenges for studying pain in children, I think it also creates opportunities.
Childhood is associated with high neuroplasticity, which means that children’s systems are highly adaptable. If harnessed appropriately, this could be a game changer for pain research. In their symposium on “Early Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Development of Chronic Pain across Generations,” Gary Macfarlane, Richelle Mychasiuk, and Melanie Noel presented a convincing argument that early life experiences are critical in laying the foundation for lifelong health, including pain. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. While negative early life experiences can lead to poor health outcomes, positive childhood experiences can help buffer against adversity.
Childhood presents a unique opportunity to better understand the complexities associated with “how pain works,” which could be used to help inform how we treat both children and adults with chronic pain. The early years of life may also present an opportunity to prevent the development of pain problems.
It was this untapped opportunity that sparked my curiosity in pediatric pain research. Specifically, can we harness the early years of life to prevent the development of chronic pain for the next generation?
ISPP has made me excited to see what’s in store for the next 40 years of pediatric pain research!
Sarah Wallwork, PhD, is a research fellow in IIMPACT in Health at the University of South Australia. You can follow her on Twitter/X – @SarahBWallwork.
As I reflect on my experience at ISPP 2023, I still hear a resounding call for the prioritization of accessibility, equity, diversity, and inclusion (AEDI). These principles are not merely buzzwords; they form the cornerstone of progress in pediatric pain research/management and were innervated throughout ISPP 2023.
Starting from day one of the scientific program, important – but not “conventional scientific conference topics” – were prominently featured. The first keynote speaker – Jaris Swidrovich – highlighted the interwoven history of indigenous peoples, Truth and Reconciliation, and Pain (see here for a brief on colonialism in Canada). This perspective left an indelible mark on the audience.
Later sessions included the important topics of racism and accessibility, studying pain in neurodivergent children, sex and gender influences on pain, and intersectionality for LGBTQIA+ youth. As a newcomer to clinical and pediatric pain research, I was left with a lot to consider from these rich discussions and research topics, which inspired me to make my future research more inclusive.
As a final reflection, ISPP 2023 was the only conference I have attended where most attendees and presenters were women. It was such a welcome surprise, and an excellent reminder of how important it is to support traditionally underrepresented populations in research. While we have a lot of work left to do, I feel there’s a bright, inclusive future for the next ISPP meetings.
ISPP 2023 was not just a forum for scientific exchange; it is a reminder that progress in healthcare can only be achieved through a commitment to accessibility, equity, diversity, and inclusion. By embracing these principles, ISPP is taking steps toward a future where pediatric pain research and care leave no one behind.
Annemarie Dedek, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can follow her on Twitter/X – @AnnemarieDedek.
All good things in life must end. The 2023 edition of ISPP is officially over, and I am left with one feeling – hope.
As a novice in the research field, I felt as if ISPP 2023 was like taking a surprise trip (quite literally for many of us). There were butterflies in my stomach caused by the excitement for what was to come, unexpected encounters with memorable people, unmatched learning experiences, and a sense of wonder and longing for the next trip.
That leftover gut feeling has persisted and is somewhat overwhelming. We heard talks and plenaries about various topics, including the use of virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and modified assessment tools. All of these innovative care designs leave me wondering what’s next. What more can be done? Barriers must continue to be broken.
The fact that children feel, describe, and cope with pain differently was well highlighted in the symposium. This means we must assess, monitor, and help manage pediatric pain in unique ways. As the definition of pain and the world in which our children grow both actively evolve, we must adapt accordingly. A book may be enough to distract children from their pain, but as technology develops, children have become used to phones, video games, and robotics.
So, as we hope to better manage children’s pain, we must align with the times. What is interesting and enticing to children today and tomorrow? What will keep children engaged so their experience of pain is not as traumatizing?
ISPP 2023 inspired us to intertwine our practice with the current times and children’s realities to better manage pain. It’s not only about technology but having curiosity to explore possibilities, and to collaborate with multiple fields, to create a well-rounded management plan for children in pain.
We hope to grow, and we grow as we hope.
Jéssica Ding is a master’s student at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. You can follow her on Twitter/X – @JessicadingJD.
As I reflect on ISPP 2023, allow me to present an overview of what went down, and share how it exceeded my expectations.
Day one was dedicated to registration and pain education, and I couldn’t wait to see the venue and setup. The Halifax Convention Center was incredible, and we had informative sessions on the indigenous peoples of Canada and knowledge mobilization.
Fast forward to day two – the program covered topics ranging from chronic musculoskeletal pain in adolescents to emerging trends in research. I particularly enjoyed the workshops and poster presentations, where I received constructive feedback from experts in the field. It was also inspiring to meet like-minded early-career researchers at the reception. These trends persisted through days three and four, and were topped off by a fantastic plenary lecture given by Elliot Krane, who received the Distinguished Career Award.
Attending ISPP 2023 was a game-changer for me. This conference should be the standard for organizing committees to emulate for a successful program, as the combination of social and scientific activities made for a phenomenal week. The inclusion of patient partners was refreshing and provided a humbling reminder of the impact our work in the lab can have on people’s lives.
The networking, learning, presentations, poster sessions, exhibitions, and sponsor booths were just a few of the highlights. Additionally, the career development, international and cultural exposure, publishing opportunities, and personal development were invaluable. I was provided an intellectually stimulating experience that has impacted my view of scientific meetings.
Overall, ISPP 2023 exceeded my expectations, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have attended.
Adewale Oluwaseun Fadaka, PhD, is a research fellow at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Ohio, USA. You can follow him on Twitter/X – @silvernonferous.
ISPP 2023 met all my expectations. I was able to connect with international scientists and clinicians, and even generated new collaborations. What stuck out to me most was how enthusiastic everyone was about their own work and how appreciative they were of others’ research. It was a respectful, inspiring, and productive atmosphere. Here are the messages I’ll take home with me:
- Look beyond the pain research field for collaborations to channel diverse expertise.
- The field of virtual reality is exciting and delivers many possibilities for pediatric pain management.
- Strengthen your research by working on international projects!
Another aspect of ISPP 2023 that overwhelmed me – in a positive way – was the audience’s engagement during my panel discussion. This crowd afforded me so many invaluable viewpoints from different fields and research backgrounds. Having such thought-provoking discussions with diverse experts is what will make me eager to return to the ISPP 2025 in Glasgow, Scotland! It’ll feel a bit like a homecoming after spending one year at the University of Stirling in 2019. It’s going to be fantastic to meet everyone from ISPP 2023 again in Scotland and see how much their research has progressed.
Lisa-Marie Rau is a PhD candidate at the German Paediatric Pain Centre in Datteln, Germany. You can follow her on Twitter/X – @Lisa_Marie_Rau.