A group photo of delegates at the ANN Congress in Melbourne in May 2024Between 27th and 29th May 2024, an audience of professionals working in the field of neuromuscular disorders from across Australia and New Zealand met in Melbourne, Australia for the Australasian Neuromuscular Network (ANN) Congress.

The WMS supported the event through our project proposals process, providing funding to enable the attendance of early career researchers from across the region.

Dr Rachel Kennedy, a neuromuscular physiotherapist and clinician-researcher, Royal Children’s Hospital and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia received an ECR bursary and won the prize for Best Poster. She describes her experiences of the Congress for the WMS.

“The Australasian Neuromuscular Network (ANN) is truly a multi-disciplinary union of scientists, medical, nursing and allied health professionals from across Australia and New Zealand. We come together with a shared vision for the well-being of people living with neuromuscular disorders. Our delegates bridge the lab bench to the bedside and out to the community while also crossing the lifespan. ANN is a “broad church”. It was fabulous to see the 2024 ANN Congress grow by 50% from last year’s. Over 150 delegates came to sunny Melbourne in late autumn, for a jam-packed two and half days of learning, sharing and networking.

“A unique element of a smaller meeting like the ANN is that there are no concurrent sessions. This calls for presentations that are accessible to all and presenters that can speak to a broad audience. Professor Conrad “Chris” Weihl (Washington University School of Medicine St Louis) provided two comprehensive keynote addresses including clinical trial readiness in LGMD and the pathomechanics of Aggregate and Vacuolar myopathies, ticking the boxes of the clinicians and lab scientists in the audience. In the awarding of the Best Oral paper, generously sponsored by WMS, judges Kristi Jones and Ashley Cruz noted that the winner, Dr Angus Lindsay, was able to get their message about stress induced glucose intolerance in the mdx mouse across to lab scientists and clinicians alike.

“While large and dispersed, Australia and New Zealand are small in numbers with a combined population of about 32 million. An estimated 40-50,000 Australians and New Zealanders are affected by a neuromuscular disorder. Coming together as a group of neuromuscular specialists through the ANN reduces our isolation and allows us to share combined resources. It was great to hear in question time and during breaks, delegates, often from different professions and subspecialties asking questions and offering to collaborate.

“‘Learn to collaborate well’ was the top tip that Professor Josh Burns (University of Sydney) left us with during his valedictory address. Josh, who will shortly depart Australia for the USA, perhaps typifies everything the ANN symbolises. A podiatrist by training, Josh has led the development of outcome measures in CMT together with global collaborators. A foundation member of the ANN, Josh has generously supervised and mentored many allied health and medical colleagues in Sydney and across Australia. Josh was instrumental in forming the Allied Health and Nursing Alliance (AHNA) as part of the ANN. This week it was standing room only for the annual AHNA get together. It was wonderful to see forty or more nursing, occupational therapy and physiotherapy colleagues and for the first time, speech pathologists and exercise physiologists among the group. We were able to share a complex case study and current research recruitment call outs.

Six people at the ANN Congress in Melbourne in May 20204 “A standout of ANN is the collegiality and spirit of support for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) who are provided ample platforms to present their work. Personally, the ANN provided me the first opportunity to present my early PhD studies in 2014 and this year enabled me to present work from our student that forms part of my post-doctoral studies. The sponsorship from WMS to support and enable ECRs to attend and present their work is invaluable and warmly welcomed. I look forward to attending the ANN Congress on the Sunshine Coast in March 2025.

“With much gratitude to WMS for their support.”

As a demonstration of our commitment to developing the field of neuromuscular disorders through clinical research and patient care, the WMS is seeking project proposals for funding and broader support. We want to break down the barriers to access for our community and ensure that scientists around the world can network, learn from one another, share science and publish their work. The project proposals process is available to all WMS members. For more information and to apply for funding, please visit the project proposals page of the WMS website.

Published on 19 June 2024.

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