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WPC Architect Talks About His Plans

The PDF News & Review staff recently had the pleasure of an early-morning interview with Howard J. Federoff, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Program Committee of the World Parkinson Congress (WPC). Here we share Dr. Federoff's account of his expectations and goals for this innovative conference.

The first World Parkinson Congress will be held in Washington, DC, from February 22-26, 2006. Organized by The World Parkinson Congress, Inc., the event will provide an international forum for presentation and discussion of the best scientific discoveries, medical practices and caregiver initiatives related to Parkinson's disease. This Congress will bring together physicians, scientists, allied health professionals, people with Parkinson's and caregivers to discuss topics such as diagnosis, treatment trends and the future of Parkinson's research.

Q: What makes the World Parkinson Congress different from other meetings on Parkinson's disease?

A: The World Parkinson Congress is the first meeting of its kind that will bring together the scientists who inform the medical community with the people who have Parkinson's, with the aim of creating a better understanding of what causes Parkinson's disease and what treatments might be useful. This approach presented more of a challenge than one might have thought. What has turned out to be wonderful about the whole process of preparatory meetings and conference calls is that everyone wants to make sure that information at the Congress is conveyed and defined as broadly as possible, so as to include all parties that are interested.

Q: How will you ensure that the program will appeal to all attendees?

A: We know that not everyone is going to be interested in all of the facets of the WPC program, but at the same time, we want to make certain that some elements will appeal to all. Each day will have its own theme - an idea that was suggested by Dr. Ira Shoulson of the Parkinson Study Group and Dr. Stanley Fahn of Columbia University - and this will be reflected in a "question of the day" that we will attempt to address through a series of educational approaches. For example, each day will begin with a plenary forum, where there would be a general overview of a particular topic. Later in the day, we will get into more specific, higher levels of content through a series of symposia, and those symposia are really to attract more specialty interest.

In addition, we are including a "hot topic" feature at the end of the day to represent cutting edge, exciting, new information that is of broad interest. This will be followed by a plenary wrap-up, using the chairs and speakers to bring the different elements of the day together and to give all groups, including patients and caregivers, a summary of what was discussed that day and what it might mean to each person.

Q: How do you see patients, caregivers and doctors interacting at the WPC?

A: I hope generally that there will be a greater appreciation of different perspectives on Parkinson's, whether one is a patient, scientist, caregiver or clinician. Scientists rarely have the opportunity to participate in the evaluation of a PD individual, or to make rounds at a hospital. This Congress will provide them with the opportunity to have an informal interaction with patients and caregivers. This will in turn give them a better appreciation for the dimensions of the disease and just how devastating it can be when a patient's Parkinson's progresses.

Q: What do you see as the future of the WPC?

A: I hope that the Congress will be successful in convincing the hard-core basic scientists that there is value in attending it for them, because I know that many of them are torn between going to purely scientific meetings and meetings such as this. I want to make sure that they perceive a concrete, measurable and high value of attending this informative meeting.

I also hope that patients and caregivers realize that this really is a unique opportunity for them. I know it is extremely difficult for some people to travel, but I am hoping that as we get more established, we can create satellite conferencing capabilities so that it will be possible to access the information live for those who cannot attend. My goal is for every single country that has interest in supporting this type of meeting to provide us in the future with an opportunity to arrange virtual interfaces in several cities around the world.

For more information on the WPC and to view the Congress program, please visit www.worldpdcongress.org.

Howard J. Federoff, M.D., Ph.D., is a member of the World Parkinson Congress Steering Committee and Chair of the Program Committee. He also serves as Director of the University of Rochester School of Medicine's Neuroscience Program and is the Senior Associate Dean for Basic Research. Among Dr. Federoff's many accomplishments is the founding of the Division of Molecular Medicine and Gene Therapy in the Department of Neurology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine.