I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota with the Hand and Upper Limb team at Birmingham Children’s Hospital (BCH) for the long-anticipated World Symposium on Congenital Malformations of the Hand and Upper Limb (WSCMHUL) 2023. Here are some of the reflections from the conference!
The conference brought together hand surgeons, hand therapists and other health care professionals from all over the world to present current developments in research, surgical interventions, and therapy treatment modalities with featured keynote lectures from legends in the field such as Dr Kerby Oberg and Dr Marybeth Ezaki. One of the keynote lectures that kickstarted the conference was by Dr Marybeth Ezaki on the history of congenital hand surgery, reminding everyone in the room as to why we do what we do – the rewards of caring for the whole child, the focus on regarding a child as a whole person and not a child born without all “their” parts and the importance of continuing to learn and teach through meetings and collaborations that enable sharing and development of friends and mentors.
The BCH team also presented three talks during the conference that were well received (judging from the volume of questions that were asked in the panel discussion) as well as six posters, which was more than any other team/individual that submitted to the conference! One of the posters from the BCH team received the most views and positive comments – a study reviewing the extracurricular activities hosted by the team to encourage children with hand and upper limb differences to participate in activities to increase self-esteem, through peer support such as coffee mornings and fashion shows. I also had the opportunity to present my work on efficacy of sirolimus on isolated limb overgrowth which was well received.
The bringing together of hand surgeons, hand therapists and other health professionals throughout the conference was particularly important and served as a poignant reminder of synergistic effect one has on the other, as pointed out by one of the quotations in one of the lectures: “Behind every great hand surgeon is an even greater hand therapist”. It was great to see so many surgeons supporting their therapists and vice versa to present innovative service developments in the endeavour to help children.
In a similar way, there was great value in attending this conference as a multi-disciplinary team as we learned together, shared various experiences and knowledge, and developed strong relationships with one other in order to bring this back to BCH and have a bigger impact on the lives of those we treat. The team at BCH, including myself, felt privileged not only to share these experiences with each other but with other representative teams from around the world which brought home how important the work we are doing is and how the children are at the heart of everything we do. Ending the conference in a rapture of applause, the last keynote lecture was delivered by Sarah Tuberty, an Occupational Therapist, service user, championing change by suggesting “Congenital Malformations” change to “Differences” to dispel “Ableism” and break down the barriers that these children face.
Geared with fresh inspiration, skills and knowledge, the team aim to actively apply their skills within the Hands service and have their eyes set on the next World Symposium in India 2026!
Dr Yangmyung Ma is a Foundation Year Doctor and the Founder of HYMS Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery Society. He also aspires to be a Plastic surgeon. In his spare time, he enjoys playing music or sports.