Category: Conference

Enslaved by the Annual Symposium of the Society for the Study of Addiction 2013

The term Addiction comes from the Latin “enslaved by”. For two days, we became slaves of addiction conferring, once again, at the SSA conference in York, UK. Here’re my perceptions from this scientific slavery.
 

De-normalisation

Alcohol is so widespread in our community that abstinence is almost abnormal, argued one of the conference delegates. It’s hard to disagree with that. Recovery is helped by achieving a sense of normality about abstinence or lowered use. Professor Robert West took this issue even further and talked about denormalising use (check out his blog). Looking at the issue from multiple angles, he warned about the potential negative consequences of stigmatising use. Stigmatisation can backfire by increasing healthcare costs for people who not only use, but also have to deal with the stigmatisation and its negative effects. It seems that normalising safer use or normalising quitting is the way to go. My point about negative effects of stigmatisation reinforces the belief (supported by evidence) held by many harm reductionists that balanced information about drugs is the best form of primary prevention.
 

Skeltergate coffee

The most useful part of the conference for me was the opportunity to talk to colleagues at my, post-doctoral, level. I met the first friend before the conference, in a coffee place – Skeltergate. Skeltergate is a small cafeteria really close to the conference hotel. My friend waited there for me with a research paper in one hand and a pencil in the other. He definitely made the best use of his time. He and my second friend, who lives in London, are emerging researchers who recently relocated because of work. Both have a very busy working schedule, which includes working at 4 AM before breakfast, or after 11 PM when kids go to bed. I asked one of them how many hours per week he worked and he replied that working time is not a meaningful variable in academia. In another words, productive researchers work all the time.
 

Don’t stop working

Checking email is not work, it’s a compulsion. True to this statement, most people checked their inboxes during the conference lectures. Others did so in the cafeteria. Some people did not read their emails when they were out of office and enjoyed the opportunities of talking to other delegates. The academia did not manage to enslave all.
 

Always keep searching for the water pump

Before the conference, my PI suggested reading a bit about John Snow (1813 –1858) – an English doctor and a pioneer of anaesthesia and medical hygiene. Being the father of modern epidemiology, he traced the source of a cholera outbreak in Soho, London, in 1854. The outbreak was long, had too many victims, and no one know what kept it going. Dr Snow found the poisoned water pump, which everybody drank from, and shut it down. The figure below shows his memorial plaque at the Park Inn.

Tweeting

In contrast to the high prevalence of personal computers, the SSA Twitter banter was quiet again. Maybe it’s because there’s no official #hashtag for the SSA conference. Some people use the whole title (see figure below), while others tried to establish the #SSA2013 hashtag. This tag was used in 5 tweets only. What’s more, it’s being used as a hashtag for Space Situational Awareness 2013 conference, which was in London the weekend after SSA.

 

Check out also the blog about the conference by Sally Marlow

26 weeks investing in Portland

Portland

Welcome to my INVESTing log. INVEST is the International Visiting Scientists & Technical Exchange Program for drug abuse research sponsored by NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse). From March-August, 2013, I was an INVEST researcher at the Oregon Health& Science University in Portland and this is a log about my experiences.

Three INVESTing points weekly (from newest to oldest):

Last Week 26 (August 26-31)

Windy and Sandy Jersey shore
Funny looking banknotes in my purse; different scent in my bathroom
With that soulful look on your face

Week 25 (August 19-25)

Here’s the opposite – a lot of professionals and not enough patients
A good bye lunch in the park
We don’t own anything; it’s on loan

Week 24 (August 12-18)

I lost my voice in Santa Rosa
I feel like I’m swimming upstream
Humans make up stories. Most people are better in the abstract

Week 23 (August 5-11)

Please note that your OHSU PC access will expire on 9/2/2013
The goal of writing is to stretch the limits of your thinking
Oregon spirit

Week 22 (July 29 – August 4)

A week of strong decisions
Picnic at Skidmore bluffs
Document the experience

Week 21 (July 22-28)

Swimming in the Frog lake under the Hood mountain
A beautiful place where I have time to think and write
The work ethics in US is different

Week 20 (July 15-21)

2 Free books in 2 days: paradise
Methamorphosis at Marquam hill
‘If the water is dark, the lake must be deep’

Week 19 (July 7-14)

It’s hard to get a credit line
Two writing workshops this week
You are my fountain of knowledge
Great art can emerge from aimless meanderings

Week 18 (July 1-7)

Charts reviews started, best time – 4.06 sec
The department is empty these days, the head brought a cake to appreciate staff
I thought I was here to learn more about research, but I’m actually learning a lot about leadership and group interaction

Week 17 (June 24-30)

73 new emails after a week out of office
A strange proposal will arrive soon
Everything depends on your determination

Week 16 (June 17-23)

at the CPDD conference, visiting San Diego again after 9 years
A complete different time space
Controlled expansion

Week 15 (June 10-16)

First focus group, first night ride through the Terwilliger… feels like on the top of the world
How long have you been using internet for? – 15 years
My first potluck at the OHSU public health

Week 14 (June 3-9)

Release from immediacy
Their number will grow, our number will die
The floor is slippery when wet (Really?)
Sometimes you don’t know what’s possible until you’re forced to do it

Week 13 (May 27 – June 2)

Where is the sun gone?
The atempt here is creating
sometimes, the most powerful and profound changes can be brought about by the most subttle and innocent moments
Journal of Japanese Gardens

Week 12 (May 20 -26)

IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval out now!
Working with other writers is good for me
Quote from a song: “Should I stay or should I go now?
If I stay, there will be trouble – If I go, there will be double.”

Week 11 (May 13 -19)

weeks started to fly by
I said: I’m an office monkey. They said: We are donkeys.
Work, Play, Love, Read

Week 10 (May 6 -12)

How to spill an oatmeal on the office floor
Two copulating mosquitos sucking blood from my arm
everybody has a different style of working

Week 9 (April 29-May 5)

My first ride to work on the cable car (aerial tram)
My friends at work make their own bread and apple preserves
I’ve been bitten by a writing buy

Week 8 (April 22-28)

First day at work in my 10-year old American sandals – the summer’s comming
Learning about my limits and acknowledging my strengths
“A lot of media advertising is based on things that make people insecure and anxious” (the Missrepresentation movie)

Getting warm welcomes by OHSU Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (PHPM) in The Liaison Newsletter:

Dr. Jan Klimas joined PHPM as an INVEST Fellow beginning March 1. The National Institute on Drug Abuse supports the INVEST Fellows program to accelerate career development for new investigators who are citizens of a country other than the US. Jan will work in the US for six months assessing the value of screening and brief intervention for alcohol use disorders among opioid dependent patients being treated with an opioid agonist medication (i.e., methadone or buprenorphine). He plans to collaborate with Richmond Clinic and CODA to contrast US agonist treatment services with those in Ireland provided through general practitioners.

Jan is a Slovakian currently working in Ireland where he studies screening and brief intervention for alcohol use disorders among opioid dependent patients receiving agonist medication. The US provides opportunities for comparative research….
For more info, check the Winter 2013 edition of The Liaison, PHPM’s internal newsletter, is published the first week of the month and highlights news and events that took place the previous month, in addition to listing upcoming events as well.

Week 7 (April 15-21)

New office, new start
What is the American standard?
First stolen bike saddle
Forging new friendships

Week 6 (April 8-14)
car hand brake is actually a foot brake in new US cars
moving to a new desk next week
restrooms and water fountains are so common in Portland
tatoos and piercings are so tolerated… everywhere

Week 5 (April 1-7)

Who uses buses in Portland or US? Discovering Portland Metro area
Really tired
Changed my location on skype/ twitter to PDX

Week 4 (March 22-31)

First fruit of my labour on the INVEST project are here
Beautiful mornings, cycling to work on the hill
Work and life routine, getting used to it

Week 3 (March 15-21)

Conference at Washington DC
Getting to know myself better, my expectations
Everything’s so expensive
A photo from the Spring NIDA CTN 2013 conference: INVEST scholar links with Humphrey scholars:

Week 2 (March 8-14)

Why does it take so long to get used to this, longer than I expected
Too many things to do at work
I miss Ireland – listening to RTE Lyric.fm

Week 1 (March 1-7): starting in Portland

Jet lag, almost all week
My first chai
Everything is so big, different, weird
Arrived safely at OHSU; checking the “Hall of fame” aka Notice board with faculty publications by OHSU Department of Public Health (2011-13):

What happened before my arrival to OHSU in Portland, Oregon:

31/Jan/2013

Jan will speak about his previous and current research in Ireland and plans for future research in Portland, OR at the The Spring 2013 CTN Steering Committee Meeting. It will be held at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda, Bethesda, Maryland, on March 12-15, 2013.
For more info, check the section about International Symposium in the latest issue of the NIDA CTN Bulletin (January 31, 2013, Volume 13 – 02): http://ctndisseminationlibrary.org/ctnbulletin.htm

15/Nov/2012

Jan Klimas, PhD, joins the Western States Node on March 1, 2013, as a NIDA CTN INVEST Fellow.  NIDA is National Institute on Drug Abuse, and INVEST is International Visiting Scientists & Technical Exchange Program for drug abuse research, which combines
“postdoctoral research training in the US with professional development activities and grant-writing guidance to form a unique program for drug abuse scientists”(link).
Oregon Health & Sciences University hosts Dr. Klimas’ six months fellowship during which he will assess the use of Screening and Brief Intervention (SBIRT) for alcohol use disorders among patients receiving agonist medication for opioid use disorders.

Professor Dennis McCarty, Co-PI for the Western States Node, will supervise Dr. Klimas during his fellowship.  The research examines addiction treatment in primary and specialty care settings with respect to implementation of screening and treatment for unhealthy alcohol use among opioid-dependent patients in methadone or buprenorphine maintenance treatment in Ireland and Oregon.  Dr. Klimas’ prior work in Ireland informs the U.S. investigation… read more in the NIDA CTN bulletin, (issue November 15th, 2012): http://ctndisseminationlibrary.org/bulletin/20121115.pdf

Pedicabs, Cochrane & Drugs Conference in San Diego

I was in San Diego (CA) 9 years ago. We went there with my wife, then a girlfriend, on a J1 Student work & travel programme. We worked as pedicab drivers – did not make much money but got the best tan (and time) in our lives. This year, we returned to Sand Diego for my presentation at the conference of the College on Problems of Drugs Dependence.

The drugs conference

This was probably the biggest conference I’ve ever attended. I underestimated the power that such enormous scientific stimulation can have on my thinking and experiencing of the world of addictions. My notebook is again full of ideas for research and life. To share just one of them, Wyoming is the only state in which has free access to Cochrane reviews in US. Cochrane collaboration is committed to produce high quality reviews of scientific evidence which aim to change the clinical practice and policy. USA produces the biggest number of studies that get included in Cochrane reviews. Are they not interested in reading what Cochrane reviews make of their clinical trials?

As I was coming back from the conference hotel to my hostel in the down town, I passed by an older man in red jacket entering the historical Simmons hotel with a bag of groceries. ‘I used to live here, 9 months ago’ said I when I saw him. ‘Nine years ago, I used to be a general manager of this hotel’ was his response. Back then, it was very difficult to convince this stern man that we would be able to pay our rent from our pedicab money. His face glowed when he finished our small talk ‘It’s a nice place to live’.

The pedicabs

To my big surprise, we haven’t seen many pedicabs on the streets of San Diego. But it didn’t discourage us from taking a memorial ride from the US Midway to down town. We stopped a driver from Canada wearing a US flag as his head band. He explained what has caused the decline of pedicabs in SD:

  • no J1 student drivers allowed (since 2009)
  • the upper limit of new licenses – drop from 600 to 200
  • Californian driving license required (since 2011)
  • insurance for all

… we still didn’t manage to get on the Midway, maybe next time.
My new friend Portland, John Fitzgerald, PhD, wrote about this conference too, in his June blog.

Cochrane conference in Ireland: Making an impact? (#cochraneevidence)

Another conference’s over. This one is among my favourites because it’s about Cochrane collaboration. It attracted around 70 delegates who came to Queens university in Belfast this year.

Lots of interesting discussions with colleagues, e.g. how do you define an expert? or What’s an ideal composition of an expert panel or a committee? It would seem that senior academics, professors or directors are the right experts, but truth may not be so straightforward. Some of these senior people may be simply too busy or think they know it all. Inclusion of junior staff, post-docs, nurses or systematic review authors on expert panels is better because they lack the weaknesses mentioned earlier. What more, they may be the most hard working group in the academia or research in general. Because of that, hey are likely to be dedicated members of expert panels.

A whole different discussion was going on between the conference delegates on Twitter:

Hearing and talking about my/ fellow reviewers’ experiences of doing SRs made me think about what was special different about my own experience or review:

  • it was my first review
  • I’ve applied a truly systematic approach, which received praise from my quality advisor (see previous blog post)
  • it was real quick
  • I had multiple presentations and non-peer reviewed articles about the review
  • I worked for 2 universities
  • I’ve used EPPI-reviewer software, unlike many of my fellow colleagues
  • I’ve used a lot of support from our health information specialists
  • it was done within a unique Health Research Board of Ireland (HRB) fellowships scheme
  • I couldn’t have done it without a strong support from my co-authors and the Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol review group (CDAG)

So, what impact had this year’s Cochrane in Ireland conference on me? It helped me to regain my research identity again.
…and the sky in Belfast was grey, yet again.
A copy of my cochrane review can be accessed here: