Prof. Peter Van den Bergh
Executive Board Member of the World Muscle Society
Prof. Dafin Muresanu (DF):Can you briefly illustrate the structure and mission of the World Muscle Society (WMS) to the readers of the EANpages?
Peter van den Bergh (PvdB): The WMS was founded in London, UK, on 4 June 1995 by 15 founding members. The initiative came from Professor Victor Dubowitz who selected these founding members based on the principle that they constituted a high-level multidisciplinary team from all over the world, working in the neuromuscular field. It was felt that there was a need for a new multidisciplinary society to organize international congresses on a yearly basis and to stimulate active participation of young and active researchers, clinical and basic. From inception, the meetings were very successful and structured along an interactive workshop format, based on the concept of the European Neuromuscular Centre (ENMC) workshops. All plenary sessions are common with a limited number of established keynote speakers presenting state-of-the art lectures on the main congress topics and selected oral presentations. What has proven to be crucial for the success is the focus on guided poster presentations throughout the whole meeting. The membership of the society has steadily increased over the years and the meetings are attended now by close to 1000 registrants. With its congresses, WMS is now the well established leader worldwide in the myology field. WMS is led by an Executive Board headed by a president, a secretary and a treasurer, which are also part of a Programme Committee responsible for the organization of the congresses in collaboration with the local organizing committee of the hosting country. The main aims of WMS are “to provide a multidisciplinary scientific forum to advance and disseminate knowledge in the neuromuscular field to the benefit of patients, to stimulate, encourage and help to develop programs for professionals working in the neuromuscular field, to provide opportunities for young investigators in the neuromuscular field, and to promote the achievement of standards in clinical practice”.
DM: EAN, the overall platform for clinical neurology, works towards establishing closer cooperation with the related sub-specialties. Do you see possibilities for cooperation between WMS and EAN?
PvdB: Cooperation and networking between learned societies is extremely important. With the explosion of new developments in diagnosis and treatment this now more than ever is the case. The Scientific Panels Muscle and Neuromuscular junction disorders and Neuropathies have collaborated in the neuromuscular field with WMS (and with PNS, the Peripheral Nerve Society) since many years for the simple reason that often some of the chairpersons, management group or other members are members of WMS. It is a great idea from EAN to stimulate cooperation more formally by means of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) stipulating in writing and signed by both parties specific agreements with sub-specialty societies. Recently, EAN and WMS did sign an MoU. The principle goal is to strengthen collaboration between the 2 societies. Key areas to reach this goal are the possibility to provide a joint session at each other’s congresses with an advert in the final congress programmes, to develop joint EAN/WMS guidelines for management of specific neuromuscular disorders, and to enhance education (e.g., teaching courses and fellowship programmes). A first concrete result is that the proposal for a symposium on Inflammatory neuromuscular disorders by the Scientific Panels Myopathies and Neuromuscular junction disorders and Neuropathies, on behalf of WMS and PNS, for the Oslo congress in 2019 has been accepted by the EAN programme committee. As you know, the overarching theme for the Oslo congress is Neuroinflammation.
DM: The WMS Charter states: “ … The activities of WMS shall be open to all professionals working in the neuromuscular field, irrespective of nationality, race and political opinion. It shall be a multidisciplinary Society, reflecting in particular the different disciplines involved in the study of neuromuscular disorders and the management of patients with these disorders.” How would you outline cooperation with EAN?
PvdB: Neuromuscular disorders are diseases of the peripheral nervous system. They include the muscular dystrophies, spinal muscular atrophies, hereditary neuropathies, congenital myopathies, myasthenias, myotonic syndromes, metabolic myopathies and inflammatory myopathies, and therefore belong to the realm of neurology. They constitute a very large neurological sub-specialty represented at EAN by the Scientific Panels Muscle and Neuromuscular junction disorders and Neuropathies. Multidisciplinarity implies that all aspects of neuromuscular disorders from bench to bedside are covered from childhood to adult life. This is very similar to what happens in other neurological sub-specialties as demonstrated by the other 29 EAN Scientific Panels representing a wide range of sub-specialties. Clinical aspects, such as new clinical entities, case studies of interest, treatment, management and rehabilitation involve a multidisciplinary team consisting of adult and pediatric neurologists working together with various specialties such as genetics, cardiology, respiratory medicine, orthopedics, neurophysiology and pathology. Basic scientific studies of relevance to the clinical syndromes include the fields of molecular biology and genetics, biochemistry and physiology as well as studies of animal models relevant to the human diseases. The MoU between WMS and EAN will facilitate cooperation on various levels, such as teaching and education (during congresses and by organizing training programmes in neuromuscular departments and institutions), development of common projects (e.g., guidelines on the management of specific neuromuscular disorders).
Dear Prof. Van den Bergh thank you for this interview and the information on the WMS. We look forward to enhancing this important ongoing cooperation.