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The Eular 2016 conference was the largest I have attended to date, and my first international conference. I found it inspiring to get such a diverse range of health professionals, patient advocates and researchers who share a common interest in rheumatology together in one place. The highlight of the conference was having an editor from a well-known arthritis journal speak to me about my work and ask me to consider submitting my study for review.

I presented part of my PhD study which examined whether social participation (social activities involving direct interaction with other and the fulfilment of social roles) is an effect mediator in the association between musculoskeletal pain and mental health. We know that musculoskeletal pain is commonly associated with increased risk of depressive symptoms in older people. My research examines whether maintaining social participation, despite pain, explains why some older people maintain good mental health.  The hypothesis was tested by decomposing the total effect of pain on mental health into a direct effect and an indirect effect via social participation. My PhD study is supervised by Dr John McBeth, Dr Ross Wilkie and Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham, with additional support from and my statistics adviser Professor Kelvin Jordan.

My presentation was well received. A few delegates engaged in discussion and seemed really interested in the idea of maintaining mental health in older people with pain rather than taking the more reactionary response of addressing poor mental health when it arises. One of the delegates was a rheumatologist from Germany who was really interested in the idea of using functional goals, such as social participation, as a target for clinical interventions.     

It was very useful networking opportunity particularly being able to speak to so many international delegates. I found some of the trade stands interesting, for example, there was a stand promoting orthotics which were highly specialised and made of very technically advanced materials compared to those I am used to working with as a physiotherapist in the NHS. 

My supervisory team were incredibly helpful in preparing a informative and accessible poster to present to the target audience. I must also mention the poster printing team who go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure posters are printed correctly.

And lastly, I cannot neglect to mention the awesome conference dinner which coincided with the day of my poster. Held in the National History Museum, there were look-alikes greeting us on arrival (Mr Bean, Austin Powers..... James Bond AND the Royal family), great food and live entertainment. There was a small group of us from the Primary Care Institute at Keele University which meant we had a great time socialising together away from the office.