Dear EAN members, friends, and colleagues,
As we head towards the end of another eventful and productive year for the EAN, I would like to take the opportunity to look back at some of our recent major events and glance ahead at a couple of highlights that await us in the coming year.
A great deal of our work this year has focused on building relationships and communicating with other organisations and stakeholders within the sphere of neurology and beyond. Strengthening bonds with our existing partners, reaching new ones, and transmitting our key messages to a wider audience are all crucial functions of the EAN, and we have had no shortage of opportunities to carry them out in 2023. Most recently a trio of significant events took place in November: an EAN National Neurological Societies Forum, our European Brain Health Summit, and the launch of the Swiss Brain Health Plan.
The national neurological societies are the walls that form the Home of Neurology, and our close connections with them are the cement that holds the whole structure together. As such, our biannual National Neurological Societies Forum is crucial as a platform for the representatives of national societies to keep in touch with us and each other, to exchange ideas and concerns, and to share new achievements. The latest such event, which took place virtually on 9 November, brought together presidents and delegates of most of the European national neurological societies, and I would like to strongly encourage all to join us for the next forums in 2024. As we all work steadily towards better brain health in Europe, these forums are gaining more and more importance. Pleasingly, it seems that the rapport between all parties increases with each forum we hold, and it is a real privilege to witness this unifying effect taking place; even more so to be a part of it.
The Brain Health Summit on 16 November – now the fourth such event we have organised in the last two years – took place in Brussels, with an onsite audience of key stakeholders, and was broadcast via livestream on the EAN website. Under the heading ‘Brain Disorders: The Neglected Burden in Non-Communicable Diseases’, the summit was opened by MEP, Tomislav Sokol, and welcomed speakers from a multitude of European organisations within the so-called brain space. With the involvement of respected voices from various sides, this was a priceless chance to articulate the intricacies of the challenges facing advocates of brain health in the realm of non-communicable diseases, and to discuss potential avenues of progress. For more information about the summit and to watch our video of the event, please click here.
Keeping to the same theme, the launch of the Swiss Brain Health Plan marks the implementation of the Swiss Brain Health Strategy, which was strongly influenced by the EAN Brain Health Strategy. The Swiss Brain Health Plan will contribute hugely to highlighting the importance of brain health in Switzerland, in accordance with the EAN’s overall mission, providing what should be a great example for other countries to observe. I was honoured to be invited to speak at the kick-off meeting for this plan, alongside EAN Past President Claudio Bassetti, who played a key role in its creation. For more about this, please see our report here.
These are just the latest events in our ongoing journey to consolidate the European neurology community and to advocate beyond it. The previous National Societies Forum back in March was also an early highlight of the year, closely followed by the first Brain Health Summit of 2023 back in May, at which I announced the launch of the Brain Health Mission. This initiative aims to raise awareness and highlight the importance of preventing neurological disease and encouraging people to take care of their brain health. Since its launch, we have been developing the project, have seen great interest from supporters, and are happy to be joined by so many strategic partners in this mission. This is a long-term endeavour that needs as much of the neurology community behind it as possible, so I encourage you all to read more about the mission and consider how you can contribute.
We are now very much looking forward to the next events, with a Brain Health Summit scheduled for 7 May 2024, at the Royal Academy of Medicine in Brussels, and another National Societies Forum to be confirmed soon, so please stay tuned for further announcements in the coming months.
Of course, the centrepiece of our year, as ever, was the EAN Congress in Budapest. I was personally delighted to see so many people join us onsite for what was a truly exciting congress with an incredibly engaging programme, all set in a wonderful location. It will be a tough one to beat, but I believe we are up to the challenge! Abstract submission and registration are both already open for our 10th anniversary congress in Helsinki and I am confident that many of you will not want to miss this special occasion in such a fantastic destination. The programme planner for the congress is already online, so I encourage you to get an early taste of what to expect on 29 June — 2 July 2024.
The EAN also launched four new initiatives in 2023 that deserve a special mention.
First, the EAN Masterclasses were launched in January, providing opportunities for small groups of participants to explore themes from the previous congress in discussions with experts on the given topic. The first of these Masterclasses took place in March, looking back at EAN 2022, and we have since organised two more examining topics from EAN 2023. Registration is still open for the latter of these, in Dresden on 22 March 2024, so please find out more and sign up if you would like to deepen your knowledge about ‘Brain Health in common and rare neurological disease’.
Second, the EAN Leadership Programme was announced, opened, and then officially kicked off for successful applicants during the congress in Budapest. Creating the programme felt like an obvious step for the EAN, as we try to cover all possible angles in support of our specialty and its workforce. Helping those who are interested in taking on leadership responsibilities to gain and develop skills to effectively fill those roles and advocate for neurology represents a long-term investment in the future of professional neurology, which will pay dividends not only for us, but crucially for patients.
Third, application for our first EAN Advocacy Training for Neurology and Brain Health programme opened in October. With the EAN ramping up our focus on advocacy, it seemed a logical step to begin encouraging and enabling our members to develop their skills in this arena. I am very pleased to say that we received a lot of applications for this first programme, and I will be following its progress with great interest once the first module gets underway in January.
Fourth, the upcoming launch of the Strategic Neurological Research Agenda for Europe later in December is perhaps the most significant development of 2023 in terms of supporting the ongoing EAN campaign for improving awareness about the need for more research and resources for neurological diseases and for promoting brain health. As a follow-up of the drafting of our Brain Health Strategy, the EAN will present a more concrete roadmap for brain health in Europe in 2024. Read more about the EAN Strategic Neurological Research Agenda (UPDATE: Strategic Neurological Research Agenda now published: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ene.16171).
Finally, not only will we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the EAN in 2024, but the European Journal of Neurology, will mark its 30th anniversary. Editor-in-Chief Didier Leys has arranged for a plethora of events and publications to recognise this special moment in the history of our official journal, so look out for announcements starting in January.
All that remains is to offer my sincere wishes for a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas season and a happy and healthy 2024! I look forward to celebrating our milestone year with you all.
Paul Boon, EAN President
PS: For environmental reasons, we have decided not to send paper Christmas cards anymore. Instead, we have offered travel grants to six residents taking part in EAN Schools.