Canadians who have eczema or who are parents of affected children can get cutting-edge information about eczema therapies at upcoming sessions in Montreal (Nov. 8), Toronto (Nov. 12), and Calgary (Nov. 22) put on by the Eczema Society of Canada.
At each session a local dermatologist will speak and an expert panel will take questions.
Tristan Joseph at Atopic Girl told me about the events and advised me to talk to Amanda Cresswell-Melville, president of the ESC. Amanda took time from organizing the sessions to answer my questions by e-mail.
SK: Is this the first time you've had this kind of event?
AC-M: We host these free education sessions each November for our Awareness Month. It is a great opportunity for eczema sufferers to hear from an expert dermatologist in the area of eczema, as well as hear from patients. Perhaps the most dynamic portion of the events is when the expert panel takes questions from the audience.
What are they modeled on?
These are common in the Canadian health care community, and conditions from Parkinson’s disease to Anaphylaxis host similar events throughout the year to reach out to patients. These types of events are a great opportunity to bring people together. With all of the great exchanges in a virtual setting today, such as through Facebook, Twitter, and email, we still get overwhelming responses from people who want to come to live events, and have a chance to ask questions face to face. I think we will do them as long as people want to attend them!
Who will the dermatologists be, and do you have an idea what they'll talk about?
We have a different dermatologist in each city, as we like to use a local dermatologist. The focus lately has been barrier function related to eczema, and how medical management, coupled with self care strategies, can help to control the condition. Eczema was often thought of as an “inside out” condition, and now we are focused on an “outside in” approach – maintaining and repairing the skin barrier, for less flare ups.
Who will be on the panels? What questions do you envision the audience will ask?
The expert panel is different in every city; however, it consists of the dermatologist speaker, the patient speakers, and typically a dermatology nurse who has expertise in the skin care counselling area of eczema management.
The Q&A session is perhaps the most anticipated portion, as some of the questions that seem to fly out of your mind when you are sitting in front of your own dermatologist can be addressed. I was surprised at one event when most of the questions came to a very dynamic young woman who spoke about her battle with eczema. Everyone wanted advice from her!
The questions usually centre on the common concerns: safety of medication, bathing and moisturizing questions, and the relationship between eczema, allergies, and asthma. Of course, if questions get too specific to the individual, they are advised to seek that advice from their own dermatologist or health care provider. Our intention is never to diagnose or create a treatment plan for individuals.
Who do you want to show up? What is/do you expect to be the ratio, among attendees, of parents of children with eczema to adults who have eczema?
While every year, and every city is different, there is usually a balance between parents of pediatric patients and adult patients of all ages. There is a great inclusive environment created, as the adult patients can relate to, and remember the struggles of the parents, as they have been there themselves, and the parents of little ones with eczema often express feeling of hope seeing the adult patients, because they know their children will be able to get through it.
Eczema is not a condition that one wants to advertise--and I myself feel weird about socializing with others when I have a flareup. And it would feel doubly weird to hang out with others in the same situation. What is the best way to reach adults such as myself?
We are very sensitive to maintaining dignity and privacy surrounding these events. We don’t allow any photography or video taping of the events, and we ensure that our language is always respectful. Most of our volunteers, and I, live with eczema on a daily basis, so these events try to respect what that experience is.
We also offer an online and telephone support component for those individuals who either don’t feel comfortable attending an event, or who cannot attend, for geographic or other reasons.
The main goal of these events it to provide information about the condition and its management, and to provide hope. Eczema can be as emotionally draining as it is physically, and we are just trying to support those living in through it, and show stories of people and families who have lived it, are living it, and are getting through it.