Symposia on Psoriatic Arthritis, Naomi Creek with Professor Stephen Hall, The buzzing sponsor’s hall

There’s a very good chance that your rheumatologist recently returned from Auckland, New Zealand, where he or she attended the joint New Zealand Rheumatology Association (NZRA) and Australian Rheumatology Association (ARA) annual conference.

This Trans-Tasman medical conference was a three-and-a-half day meeting with a packed agenda of lectures, symposia (which are lectures with time for audience participation and group discussion), poster presentations (which are just that – posters that are formatted in a very specific way to report out the findings of a study or other research project), breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings, and even an opportunity or two for celebrations and social gatherings.

Scientific Poster on Patient Reported Outcomes (POR)


In the world of rheumatology (literally, world-wide), there are national, regional and global annual scientific gatherings where doctors who treat patients, scientists who research patients, industry who make medicines for patients, and representatives of patient groups, all convene for an exchange of new ideas, learnings, discussions, and bonding. Professors of medicine, researchers (also referred to as ‘investigators’), and other representatives discuss findings and debate new approaches to treating complex cases, and study results are reported, explained and reviewed by doctors and others.

The NZRA and ARA joint conference was the Australian and New Zealand version of this meeting, which had many highlights relevant to us patients. Once again, CreakyJoints Australia was honoured to be able to attend and represent the patient community within those discussions at this meeting for the second year in a row. In the coming weeks we will be compiling and sharing our learnings, notes from the discussion threads, and opportunities for how all of us can get more involved to advance rheumatology throughout Australia (and New Zealand!).

Highlights of this year’s NZRA and ARA meeting included topic reviews – which are “deep dive” reviews on key topics, especially around treating commonly seen issues arising from the many forms of arthritis. What sets this meeting aside from many other national and international medical conferences, is the high degree of interpersonal or collegiate engagement among attendees. In other words, everyone knows everyone (it’s very personal) and everywhere you turn, there’s another colleague (friend) to talk to and catch up with.

(Also, as far as rheumatology medical conferences go – of which CreakyJoints has attended in America, South America, Europe and Australasia within the past year alone – the quality and availability of the FOOD was head and shoulders above every other medical meeting attended. The ARA and NZRA have figured out that the best way to a doctor’s mind is through his or her stomach!)

When we weren’t enjoying delicious and very healthy food provided at every turn, we had a chance to sit down with some of our doctor friends, thought leaders, and professors, to hear from their perspective what they thought and how they felt about the meeting. All of the doctors who we visited with agreed – unanimously – that one of the best parts about this particular medical conference is the opportunity that they have to bond and to meet up with longtime colleagues. “The meeting has a really lovely feel. Most people know each other, and it’s very personal” remarked Dr. Irwin Lim, and after spending a few minutes walking around the conference hall with Dr. Lim, it was easy to see what he meant.

What we found particularly inspiring was the consensus and understanding by the doctors and conference organisers about involving the patient’s viewpoint in all facets of the discussion. The reality is that the patient is front and centre at medical meetings like this – albeit in spirit – because everyone is in attendance to learn about how to better treat and look after their patients. Also, the data from the studies that are presented and discussed, are data about us, so when we say we’re there in spirit, we mean we’re practically on every slide presented, within every poster shown, and a part of every conversation discussed.

We were also inspired by the reception that we received from the doctors about the early successes, future plans, and vision of CreakyJoints Australia. The rheumatologists were keen to refer their patients to our growing community so that they can benefit from our resources and our community support.

In exchange, we vowed to the rheumatologists we met to be the best partners in care that we can be, acknowledging and appreciating the fact that a doctor and a patient is a TEAM, and both parts of this team must work together in order to have the best possible outcome.

This was warmly received and inspired us to get to know as many of the great rheumatologists from Australia and New Zealand as we possibly could.

Don’t forget, when you see your doctor next, ask him or her how they liked Auckland! (And if by chance they didn’t attend, send them this wrap-up!)