Vicky Cristina Hola Barcelona

Author: Dr Ollie Minton, Consultant in Palliative Medicine, Brighton, UK

 Dr Minton, our very own correspondent at European Association for Palliative Care conference events, rounds up the #EAPC2024 proceedings in Barcelona, and adds photographic evidence

Ollie M in B

 

I got my Barcelona ‘Hola card’ which ensures free public transport for 72 hours first. Luckily it was not sold out, unlike the congress. Luckily I had booked congress a little while back.

So… here we are again, and you, dear reader, appear to have returned for more. Reading time: 15 minutes, if you count in the many photos at the end. Spoiler alert: you won’t get those minutes back, so chose carefully.

R2-D2 and the 4Gats ( *see photos )  walk into a bar to discuss space hotels,  bohemian art and yes, death, and everyone orders too much or not enough tapas. Els Quatre Gats is a modernist cafe/restaurant/bar tucked away down a little side street (Montsio, 3 bis) just off the main shopping walkway at Avda Portal d’ Angel in the Barri Gòtic. This cafe/restaurant was a popular haunt for the young Picasso in the early 1900’s and here he undertook his first commissioned work for designing the front cover of the menu.  The young Minton, by contrast, decided to design a  multi-disciplinary working sheet for a research money-tree. But then got distracted by all the bantz around congress. At least one person had their phone nicked. And another delegate had to provide first-aid on the plane-ride over to Barcelona. Then there was a reference to Michael Jackson “Heal the world, make it a better place!” Action-stations all around. And then I had the stress of having to exchange fashion tips with the man, the legend, Augusto Caraceni, whose beautiful jacket and hair was dazzling in the Spanish sunshine. Dressed in my signature style, I should have stayed in the Barri Gòtic..oh well, space suit next for me.

Presidentes by the space-suit

 

Another bit of gossip, the last time we had an EAPC research congress in-person – apparently was in Bern! Feel the burn-  back in 2018 –in the interim, everything else was online-only, and honestly we have had more than enough of that, now, thanks. If you want to read my report from Bern, get it here: Feel the Bern: The European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) 2018 research conference roundup, y’all! – BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care).

The impact of Covid was felt in so many ways. We became quite isolated, aprt from the online world which seemed to grow. It opened up some new collaborations. But Palermo 2020, we must meet again one day, you’re the one that got away!  There is nothing that beats the in-person camaraderie, chats and gay-bars in far-away places.

Personal view: Scrap the EAPC research versus congress distinction. Just call it EAPC World Conference, have lots of research each year, but also plenty of other stuff, including projects, reviews, and the newly-again-trendy-but-quite-old-now Implementation Science bits, the Quality Improvement Projects, the whale song and the cha-cha-cha. I now think we have come of age the difference between congresses  is marginal and the science and data flows from plenary to poster session like jugs of sangria into glasses.  When a  Catalan tells you “Salut I força al canut”, they are not just wishing you good health but also calling for greater força (‘strength’) to come to your wallet or research funding pot, which we all need to implement the quest for better data in palliative care. [Editorial comment: Ollie, you do realise that the expression directly translated means: “Good health, and strength to your gonads?]

We are one European Association of Palliative Care even with the long passport queues for us Brits when entering the EU- let the organising committees do their best work and top science, and we take it back to our commissioners. “…make it a better place…”

Barcelona also gave us a human tower (luckily not a centipede), a group of artists who just climb higher and higher on top of each other. To extend the metaphor, we have the firm base and can aspire to lift up all researchers and clinicians alike, be that with more algorithms, artificial intelligence, drugs, digital legacies or compassionate communities.  We know the Holy Grail is personalised care, alongside the genomic one for cancer, and probably most if not all life-limiting conditions. No one said the words ‘big data’ this year, has that fad passed now? Or do we just substitute that with large language models?

An app is not going to manage it without the collective expertise and an educated well supported workforce. And to be honest, no one uses niche palliative care websites, apps, QR-codes or tools, they all just ask Alexa, or chatGPT. There were several excellent sessions on the future of digital. Sadly, the plenary by David Casarett on ‘The promise and peril of AI in Palliative Care’ was less promising in the way of new ground, and could have been written by v1 chatGPT in 2022. Here we learned that digital legacy apps and digital immortality were newish concepts and would severely challenge our sense of taste and opprobrium (“it’s creepy!”), which caused some bewilderment in the audience given that EAPC have co-hosted the Digital Legacy Conference since about 2019, and legacy apps have been around for nearly 10 years. Oh well, it was the morning after the night before, so it all passed eventually.

Highlights – the EAPC Awards cermonies were inspirational, well deserved, and all reflecting the range of global talent. Three women winners, as befits the diversity of our speciality, took to the stage.  See also: Announcing the 2024 EAPC Researcher Award Winners – EAPC (eapcnet.eu) . To add a Barcelona film reference for the more cultural traveller, “All about my Mother” starts with a breath taking scene of the Sagrada Familia.  The sheer buoyancy of Barcelona steers the film in a powerful and dazzling new direction. Bear with me here, please! Manuela (in the film, not at the EAPC conference) reunites with her old friend, the wonderful transsexual prostitute Agrado, whose flat overlooks the Palau de la Música – while inadvertently immersing herself in the world of theatre and helping a naive young nun. Stay with me, ok? Art mirrors life mirrors art in this vibrantly colourful, multi-layered tribute to women (“We are all women!'” claims director Pedro Almodóvar, did he join us in Berlin at EAPC 2019?) that beautifully captures the dynamism and generous spirit of the city itself. As it did here at EAPC Barcelona!

What is excellent is any one of these researchers/clinicians could have won any of the awards promoting the enormous range of projects completed and to come – all are in academic posts with thriving departments. This is so much more than was even thought possible back in Bern 2018. Things feels like they are moving, Mr Almodóvar!

What stood out was an Early Research award juxtaposed with a long-career award; an inspiring talk by Early Researcher award winner Dr Grace Yang, and the 40 year anthology of work by Xavier Gomez Baptiste, enhancing the Psychosocial and Spiritual Dimensions of Palliative Care – both were a masterclass in developing a whole program of work by using implementation science. I still don’t know what elements we need to make death discussions routine and bereavement support available schools, but I do know we need a range of academic disciplines on display in a space-themed hotel.

Award winner Xavier Gomes-Batiste

 

I do take away the amazing progress being made, although not necessarily in drug trials. Sad face emoji for our research group, who, despite a co-publication in the journal of clinical oncology whilst the oral abstract was being spoken, found that the trial was neutral, so we need to think again. But neutral tells you something, too!

Other drug trials, while excellent to see where probably too small to change practice even if positive. Take a look at some of the abstracts here The 13th World Research Congress of the European Association for Palliative Care, 2024 (sagepub.com).

We loved the posters, too, especially the physical ones returning in greater numbers. So a blend of electronic posters, physical ones, and poster presentations works well. I wonder if we can have a 24/7 running e-poster room, which each presenter given a three minute slot at some point during the conference, and it just never stops? The poster is up for three minutes at 16:37 on 23/05/2025, whether you like it or not, and if you’re there, you talk to it, if not, then ‘next!’ after the next one. A Conveyor belt of research and QI, and great practice for budding new talent.

You cannot see or do it all, not even with the unlimited Hola card,  and all the tapas in the region you have to pick and choose what to see and where to focus your energies and yes how to recharge the enthusiasm once the funding ends. We overdid it on the tapas and the sangria one night, but our neighbouring table (mainly German friends) who had actually arrived early to place their towels, had to wait for their food which arrived about 1 hour after ours. So we sent over food-rations, and there’s evidence of my post-Brexit kindness and helpfulness in the photos below, which is going straight into my Appraisal Folder, under “Working Collaboratively”. Later, we even sent over an entire ‘Dorade’ fish, which Taubert had over-ordered in broken Spanish. The fool!

What I did see was old friends, new ones, too, and yes of course, we now plan new collaborations – EU program grant anyone? – I could lead on a work package over a lunch and tapas package, or sausages, at any rate.

Winner of the #EAPC2024 Tapas X/Twitter photo award went to Dr Tony Duffy, see collection of photos below.  Well done Tony, this beats any poster vignette by a mile.

I strongly feel now we have come of age, all congresses should be large and global and mix quality improvement trials, cleaning robots, plenary’s from beyond the grave and multiple options of hashtags, so you don’t need to just go ALL CAPS on the socials. As we move to #eapc2025 we need more than committees, we need a tick toc masterclass ting,  some skilllz with programming chatGPT so that it links to the guidelines we think are best. Whatever comes next, we need a tag line and we all need to keep meeting annually in as large a venue as can be found.  The final thought commemorates the work of Antoni Gaudi, whose magnum opus, La Sagrada Família, is officially classed as a minor basilica; it is still not finished having begun construction in 1883. A bit like palliative care. Still not finished, still loads to do, but never quite enough time or money, or skills. We are all doing the danse macabre and will continue to do so throughout our careers and will always need to add finesse to the evidence. As Kevin Costner says in Field of Dreams, as a more up to date reference – “build it and they will come”.

See you all in Helsinki, mine is the world’s most expensive pint, bar any one served in central London…

 

Photo Gallery:

 

Full house

 

Lunch, an exercise in surgical extraction?

 

 

Getting friends together
Gathering in front of the moon (the hotel had a space theme)

 

E-posters of interest

 

 

La Sagrada Familia

 

 

 

Me and bubbles (not the Michael Jackson version though, quite enough of that)

 

 

Human mountain artists

 

Sangria

 

 

Helping those with less supplies

 

 

The food was…so good

 

 

EAPC Board of Directors out and about in Barca

 

Working hard at Digital/AI sessions

 

Digital Legacy work presented

 

 

 

Tapas, sangria, and a margarita

 

 

Weather: excellent

 

 

Cleaning bot gave a few plenaries as well, not bad actually, should ask him/her back

 

Early Research award winner Grace Yang

 

Best Tapas Photo Award went to Tony Duffy

 

 

 

The Social Media Stats and Al-Gore-Rhythms:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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