Conference report: Madingley SAPC 2014

Madingley“, as the shorthand goes, is just such a nice conference. Officially the “Society for Academic Primary Care London and South East Regional Conference”, held at Madingley Hall just outside Cambridge, it brings together primary care types predominantly from London and East Anglia universities for a bit of R&R and a smattering of work. This year, we in Cambridge finally stepped up to the mark and actually organised the thing – and here’s my round up.

The conference kicked off with the Regius (more shorthand: that’s Patrick Maxwell, the Regius Professor of Physic at the University of Cambridge) reviewing his work in nephrology and genomics. It was certainly an eye-opening talk, but perhaps not as the Regius intended. It served pretty well to emphasise the gulf between the kind of work we do in health services and primary care research, focussed on people – WHOLE PERSONS – with what in fact pretty much everyone else at the medical school does, which appears (to my obviously ill informed eye) to be things in labs with very very small bits of stuff. We need to work much much harder to shout about primary care research and why it is so important. Prof Simon Griffin did this pretty well, standing in at the last minute for our planned keynote speaker who was forced to cancel due to illness. His deconstruction of his research to date (on diabetes and physical activity), with due acknowledgement of changes of mind and tips for those coming along behind him (do a systematic review, find good mentors, seek to answer really BIG questions) was really illuminating.

Parallel sessions ran on such a breadth of topics there really must have been something for everyone. Highlights for us included hearing about how special constables feel about their duty to offer first aid, by Joht Chandon at UCL, and Louisa Polak’s qualitative work on patient decision-making around statins. CCHSR rather took over the workshops available to delegates, offering two of the three options: Gary, Katie and Yoryos on how to do research using practice level variables (and do it better: with spectacular timing, here’s their just published BJGP editorial on the subject), and Jenni and Emma on using mixed methods approaches (just remember integration, integration, integration or it ain’t mixed).

If anyone is looking for an after-dinner speaker, I think it’s fair to say we can wholeheartedly recommend Dr Chris Smith, The Naked Scientist, who in his spare time is a consultant virologist at Addenbrooke’s hospital here in Cambridge. He may look unassuming, but I sadly found myself actually crying with laughter at his tales of scientific derring-do including testing the hypothesis that a chocolate teapot is useless (it isn’t if it is at least 1.5cm thick), assessing whether you could achieve lift off by farting (sadly unlikely, and would probably involve freezing your bottom, apparently), and how fat you would have to be to stop a bullet (you would need a 72cm layer – I think this is quite a lot). Great stuff.

The prize presentation session was great, with four presentations (two from medical students and two from early career researchers) generating much comment and discussion. The fact that Gwilym Thomas won the medical student prize for his analysis of GP patient survey data on carer experience of primary care and quality of life, supervised by Katie, Charlotte and Martin from CCHSR, was rather nice too. Prof David Mant closed the conference with a wonderful summary of his research, imparting much wise advice including the need to focus on what is both clinically and politically important. This isn’t necessarily easy, of course, but should probably be heeded.



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