"Fantastic day, very inspiring and educational. I feel I have learnt a great deal and met a lot of like minded individuals."
Thanks to everyone who attended the British Mountain Medicine Society's Science Day last week!
With no fewer than 30 presenters and an audience running to more than a 100, the inaugural Science Day hit the ground running! Scientists and clinicians, professors and students, young and old, all rubbed shoulders. It was a day full of highlights, here are 5 of mine…
Prof Christopher Boos
"Fascinating", "engaging" and "charismatic" were just a few of the phrases used to describe Professor Boos and his talk. Here he is getting the day off to a fine start!
The day began in the best possible way with a warm, funny and educational look at the behaviour of the heart in the mountain environment. For many years it has been widely assumed that the heart copes well at high altitude and that other organs such as the lungs and brain are more at risk. However, Professor Boos' research shows that this is far from the truth. Using continuous ECG monitoring, his work has revealed a wide range of rhythm disturbances in fit and healthy soldiers climbing Dhaulagiri (8167m). Whilst these had only a limited impact upon those who were studied, this research goes some way to suggesting that individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular diseases may be faced with life threatening problems at high altitude. Further research into this area is clearly needed.
Professor Boos joined Dr Jon Naylor for a brilliant chat after his talk. Listen to it here
Sophie Hattersley and Dr Roger Thompson from APEX
Huyana Potosi (6088m) lies 25km north of Bolivian capital La Paz. APEX 6's research will be conducted on the mountain in permanent settlement situated at 4700m.
We were delighted to welcome to the stage two members of Edinburgh University’s Altitude Physiology Expeditions (APEX) group. Over the last 18 years, APEX has been incredibly successful in organising no fewer than 5 medical research expeditions to South America. Dr Roger Thompson elegantly described the organisation behind these expeditions and importantly, the studies that took place. Sophie Hattersley, a final year medical student and leader of APEX 6, brought us right up to date with a brilliant talk outlining the scientific programme for the 2020 expedition. We look forward to hearing more in the future. Good Luck Sophie!
Sophie was able to join Dr Marika Blackham after her presentation. Listen to their conversation here.
Dr Gabriella Rossetti
Rossetti and her colleagues have demonstrated that blood flow to the Posterior Cingulate Cortex (green) is reduced in acute hypoxia. A similar reduction is noticed in patients with a number of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease. Hypoxic research may offer insights into our understanding of these diseases.
Gabriella is an exercise physiologist at Bangor University and her research focuses upon the effect of hypoxia upon blood flow to the brain. Historically, we've tended to think that blood flow increases throughout the hypoxic brain in order to restore oxygenation, however Gabriella’s work using functional MRI scanning shows that this isn’t the case. In fact, some areas of the brain see an actual fall in blood flow, in particular the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). The PCC is one of the most metabolically active regions in the brain and is involved in a number of different mental tasks. Why it should see a fall in blood supply in hypoxia is unclear, however Gabriella’s research is starting to piece together the answers.
Gabriella can be found in conversation with Dr Stuart Allan here.
Posters and Short Oral Presentations
Dr Gareth Jones presenting a critical review of the diagnosis and management of annular pulley injuries in climbers. Fascinating stuff!
I have to confess that I’m biased here. I always enjoy these parts of conferences as they’re a really good way to hear about new research in short “bite sized” pieces. This is perfect for someone like me who has a short attention span! In an hour, where else could you hear talks about annular pulley injuries, the role of beetroot juice in acclimatisation and the effects of hypoxia upon a surgeon's performance? And that's just for starters! I was particularly struck by the work of Dr Chris Kay who is currently undertaking a long term project to identify the impact of a mountaineering expedition to Nepal upon those wounded whilst serving in the armed forces.
Some of our judges taking a good look at the posters!
For the Science Day we appointed judges and awarded prizes for the best poster and oral presentation. With more than 15 posters and 7 oral presentations to choose from this was no easy task! Although the standard was incredibly high the judges rose to the occasion and awarded prizes to:
Mark Cooke for best short oral presentation.
Denzil Broadhurst, Pete Colledge and Chris Smith for best poster presentations.
Congratulations to all of the winners!
Silver Hut Celebration
Harriet Tuckey speaking during the Silver Hut Celebration
We were incredibly fortunate to have 2 members of the 1960-61 Silver Hut Expedition at our Science Day. Mike Gill and Jim Milledge were on hand to share their memories of the expedition and the results of the research that took place. The celebration began with award winning author Harriet Tuckey brilliantly describing the origins of the expedition, the personalities involved and their involvement in the many facets of their time in Nepal. This was followed by a captivating presentation from Dr Annabel Nickol who paid tribute to Jim, Mike and their Silver Hut colleagues. Described by one member of the audience as “masterful” you could have heard a pin drop!
In 2013 Harriet won the prestigious Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. The Chairman of the judges that year was Chris Harle. Harriet and Chris caught up during the Science Day. Listen to their conversation here.
Mike Gill, Harriet Tuckey and Jim Milledge at the BMMS Science Day
We must take this opportunity to thank…
Special guests Mike Gill, Jim Milledge and Harriet Tuckey for taking part in our celebration of the Silver Hut Expedition.
The trustees of Bamford Institute for allowing us the use of their wonderful facilities.
Rae Helm and Jon Barton from Vertebrate Publishing for supplying us with copies of Mike Gill’s excellent book.
Pete Roberts and his colleagues at Purple Wave for their AV support.
Martin Spence from 7th Wave for recording the interviews with our speakers.
Sue and Kerum Kamal from the Hathersage Pool Cafe for providing food and refreshments.
Chris Harle for organising the evening event at Outside.
Emma Lloyd Davies, Dave Gregory, David Hillebrandt, Gerald Dubowitz, Jon Naylor, Marika Blackham, Stuart Allan, Suzy Stokes and all those who helped out on the day.
And finally, to all our speakers, presenters, interviewers and audience members who made it such a wonderful day.
Finally, here's some of the feedback we've received...
"Please make this an annual event!"
"Brilliant speakers covering research and history of altitude physiology – great privilege to hear Prof Jim Milledge, Dr Mike Gill and Harriet Tuckey."
"Thank you for a very inspiring and uplifting day."
"I would recommend anyone with an interest in the mountains and the effects that high altitude have on the human body to attend any future Science Days that the BMMS hold."
However the final word has to go to Jonny Jackson, a final year medical student from the University of Sheffield,
“I would like to re-iterate my thanks for such an involved, educational and enjoyable day, and for welcoming me as a medical student into some of the current discussions and debates within mountain medicine. I hope to attend more BMMS events in the future and will urge others to do the same.”
A further report on the BMMS Science Day can be found here.