From fetal life to adulthood? Planning for an exciting event

As the programme for this year's St. David’s Day annual conference is finalised, Wales Trainee Representative, Abby Parish, shares an insight into her rationale for the day’s theme, and what you can expect on the day.

Phew, the programme for my third St David’s Day Conference is complete. Again, we’ve lined up an expert panel and I’m excited about the day. In curating this year’s event, I’ve been assisted by Dr Beth Farr, a paediatric registrar who hopes to specialise in community child health, as well as Lisa Roberts and Gethin Jones from the RCPCH Wales office.

Attracting interest from neonatal, paediatric and community paediatric colleagues

I took over the organisation of the St David’s Day Conference when I became the Wales trainee representative in July 2015. Prior to my appointment, topics included child protection, adolescent medicine and more. I wanted to put my own stamp on the day and cater to the range of paediatricians. This is when I formed the concept of ‘from fetal life to adulthood’ – hoping to attract the interest of my neonatal, paediatric and community paediatric colleagues. 

The first conference I organised was focused upon neural tube defects. The day went well and I was enthusiastic for more. After consulting with my peers, they were keen for a day about ethics and mental health. I organised a paediatric ethics day earlier this year with Dr Richard Hain, Consultant and Lead Clinician in Paediatric Palliative Medicine in Wales, and therefore I have focused upon mental health for my final event next year.

More and more, the workload in an acute setting is about children and young people with behavioural and emotional problems presenting in crisis

As a paediatrician and a mother, I am increasingly concerned about mental health in children. More and more, the workload in an acute setting is about children and young people with behavioural and emotional problems presenting in crisis. As doctors, we have a responsibility to all children and their families to be advocates and offer early intervention to promote emotional wellbeing and resilience. As frontline paediatricians it can seem overwhelming. 

What can we do?

Building the programme

From here, the beginnings of the programme began to form:

  • What can we do to support our neonates who find themselves separated from their parents and unable to experience the normal attachment process? 
  • How do events in early childhood affect long term mental health? 
  • What about the children dealing with chronic illness – what do they feel and how can we support them with their illness and the psychological burden it may place upon them? 
  • What is the role of the paediatrician in mental health and once a child with a mental illness becomes an adult, what are the long-term problems? 

I hope these questions will be answered by the end of the day. 

The panel should... spark conversation about our role as paediatricians and how we can help... influence changes in government policy

We will finish the day with a panel made up of some of our expert speakers, representatives from the third sector and government which should spark conversation about our role as paediatricians and how we can help our patients and influence changes in government policy to improve childhood mental health by intervening earlier.

After the conference has closed, you are invited to stay for a social event in which a speaker will talk to us about our own mental health and caring for ourselves. This is followed by the presentation of the Wales Paediatric Award for Training Experience (PAFTAs), which will be the trainees we put forward for the national RCPCH PAFTAs.  We’ll arrange for a local informal meal for those who want to remain.

And some thanks

This is my final St David’s Day conference as I’ll be stepping down from my role as RCPCH Wales trainee representative. It has been an honour to work alongside Lisa and Gethin, as well as the former RCPCH officer for Wales, Dr Mair Parry and the current officer Dr David Tuthill in organising these events.  I want to say a special thank you to Lisa who has been the backbone of the organisation and an immense support.