Report on the 10th annual EAPM conference in Wroclaw, Poland

written by Marta Lenart-Bugla and Michael Sharpe

Several hundred participants from all over the world, 36 sessions and workshops, 10 experts in the field of psychosomatics, and Nobel Prize Winner, Olga Tokarczuk, made the 10th European Association of Psychosomatic Medicine scientific conference held in Wrocław, Poland in June 2023, a huge success.

‘Looking across the bridge: dialogues between professionals’ – was the title of this year’s EAPM 2023 conference, organized for the first time in Poland. From the 15th to the 17th of June, the city of Wrocław hosted 337 researchers and clinicians with an interest in biopsychosocial medicine. The program included four plenary sessions, with speakers from across the Atlantic Ocean, 18 symposia, 13 oral presentation sessions, four masterclasses, and four workshops with participants from 36 countries.

The conference venue was Concordia Design, a remarkable building located on Slodowa Island, right in the heart of the city and embodied the conference theme by being joined to it by bridges. The venue itself with its unique combination of classic old tenement house and modern glass and steel reflected a conference of both well-known experts with broad knowledge and young and newer researchers, all searching for new answers to fundamental dilemmas.

The opening ceremony in the Leopoldina Hall was spectacular. It was graced by a speech by the Nobel Prize winner in Literature Olga Tokarczuk which was entitled “Wounded Place, wounded person. An introduction to psychotopics”. Attendees were greeted by the Conference President, Prof. Joanna Rymaszewska, President of the EAPM Prof. Michael Sharpe, President of the Polish Psychiatric Association Prof. Dominika Dudek, and the Vice-Mayor of Wrocław, Bartłomiej Ciążyński. At the close of the Ceremony, the Medici Cantates choir (Wroclaw Medical University choir) gave a wonderful moving performance, singing, among other renditions, Michael Buble’s song “Everything”.

The first day started with four morning masterclasses, given by Prof. Rona Moss-Morris from the UK, Dr. Rebecca Brendel and Dr. Gary Rodin from the USA, and EAPM Alison Creed Award winner Prof. Fiammetta Cosci from Italy. In the afternoon Dr. Brendel presented a vision of psychiatry’s future from the USA perspective and Prof. Jacek Szepietowski outlined the state of the art in Psychodermatology. An international panel, chaired by Prof Meike Shedden-Mora considered how we can “Put the Psyche into medical care from a global perspective”. Six international organization leaders took part: Michael Sharpe, Hochang Ben Lee, Rebecca Brendel, Maryland Pao, Winfried Rief, and Joost Dekker and resolved to work more closely together internationally.

During the second and the third day, seven Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings were organized for those particularly interested in selected topics such as chronic pain and transplant. Among the plenary sessions, Dr. Gary Rodin presented on psychological interventions in palliative care. Dr. Jane Walker told us about the findings of the largest ever randomized trial of C-L psychiatry ‘The HOME study’. Prof. Rona Moss-Morris explained why she thinks it’s time to stop using the term “medically unexplained symptoms”, while Prof. Christoph Herrmann-Lingen discussed the effectiveness of psychological treatments in cardiology.

For the first time the EAPM conference poster sessions were electronic with six screens stands and posters shown as pdfs. This was not only eco-friendly (no printing!), but also introduced new technology to the audience and offered new possibilities for presentation. From the 123 posters shown, three authors received a Poster Award: Jonna Hybelius, Mais Tattan, and Eszter Bertalan.

On the last day, in addition to symposia, sessions and workshops, participants had the opportunity to hear lectures by winners of the EAPM awards. Prof. Albert Leentjens (Frits Huyse Awardee) discussed the biopsychosocial model chances to survive in the age of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Alison Creed Awardee, Prof. Fiammetta Cosci, described ‘Assessment in psychosomatics: the contribution of clinimetrics’. The Elsevier/EAPM Young Investigator Award went to Seryan Atasoy from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, who presented ‘A real-world perspective of stability and predictors of somatic symptoms in men and women over 10 years’. The closing ceremony allowed us to both to celebrate the awardees and to thank three EAPM members for their exceptional service as they leave the Board: Prof Wolfgang Söllner, Prof Jordi Blanch and Prof Christoph Pieh.

Despite the active academic programme, there was plenty of time during the meeting to relax on the terrace, enjoy coffee outside and make new friends. The climax of the social programme was the Gala Dinner organized on the wide patio of the city’s Arsenal. The live music made everyone dance and, truth to be told, the fun could have lasted until the morning…

As usual, Young Researchers had their own special activities, including not only an ETUDE symposia, but also a karaoke evening. On Friday we had a fruitful Mentoring Session, with Drs. Jane Walker, Maryland Pao, Rebecca Brendel, and Dorota Szcześniak, who talked about their own careers, offered tips on how to have a good work- life balance and what it is like to be a woman in the world of science today.

Like all successful events, behind this conference were many committed people, ready to help and working to make things work. We give thanks to each one of them. We believe that the satisfied participants are the best reward for years of preparation and work.

We now look forward to the next EAPM annual meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland in June 2024. There we will all meet together again and build even more bridges between us!


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