Growing together: The European Academy for Medicine of Ageing

12 July 2023

Dr Mary Ní Lochlainn is a Specialist Registrar in Geriatric Medicine & NIHR Doctoral Fellow based at St Thomas' in London. She Tweets at @maryniloc.

This June, Carly Welch and I graduated from the European Academy for Medicine of Ageing, better known as EAMA, alongside Josie Prynn who was graduating from the course before us. After four intensive weeks of teaching, group work, leadership skills, media training, and much more, we are now proud members of the prestigious EAMA family. We are immensely grateful to the BGS for their support in funding places on this course, which aims to develop future leaders in geriatric medicine across Europe.

Week 1: Ghent, Belgium
After delays getting going due to COVID, the first week was back in February 2022, in Ghent in Belgium, and had a broad focus on 'Principles of Geriatric Care'. This week had the most didactic style of teaching, but a substantial amount of informal learning went on too, with discussions over Belgian beers in a local brewery on all the differing styles of caring for older people across the continent.
It was invigorating to hear lectures given by eminent names who Carly and I had cited many times. We also teamed up with other sarcopenia enthusiasts and started planning our grant proposal, which we would go on to develop throughout the two years. Despite the masks and covid-related ban on dancing, this busy week was a fantastic introduction to EAMA and set the bar high for the weeks to come.
Week 2: Athens, Greece

The second week took place in Athens, Greece, in June 2022. At this point it was clear that strong bonds and friendships were being formed amongst all of us taking part, with spin-out collaborative projects already underway. This week focused on 'Cognition and Behaviour' and included peer-led debates on hot topics such as benzodiazepine and anti-psychotic usage in patients with dementia. We learned that there was substantial variation across Europe in terms of practice in this area.

The previous cohort of EAMA joined us in Athens for their graduation ceremony, which they had missed due to COVID, and it was fantastic for Carly and me to develop even more relationships, and to cross over with Josie, Steve, and Melanie, who represented the UK in that cohort. The fact the hotel had a rooftop pool was a nice bonus and we took advantage, developing our sarcopenia grant proposal further while topping up on vitamin D.

Thankfully COVID dancing bans were gone by this stage and a graduation party was held for our esteemed colleagues from the preceding course. We know when to work hard and when to play hard, and a geriatrician catwalk and crowd surfing were among the night's highlights. 

Week 3: Nice, France

Our third EAMA course was in January 2023 in Nice, France, which was decidedly chillier at this time of year. Considered the most challenging of all the weeks, the focus was “From evidence to care delivery in Geriatric Medicine”, and really this week was about pushing us as future leaders.

We prepared business cases, negotiating with tough critics (a certain Professor Simon Conroy amongst them) and giving press conferences, with the help of our very own BBC journalist. Hours were long and arduous, but this week was deeply rewarding.

Brief breaks on the beautiful seaside promenade outside were very welcome, as we worked closely with our colleagues to respond to hypothetical unmet needs in Leicester, which it turns out is very hard for most Europeans to pronounce. 

Week 5: Avila, Spain

The final week of EAMA took place in Avila in Spain in June this year. A sleepy medieval city north of Madrid, the setting was beautiful, surrounded by ancient stone walls with high turrets.

The theme of this final week was How to Promote Health and Provide Geriatric Care, and we were all familiar with the various styles of group-work and peer-delivered lectures by this stage.

Fantastic lectures from our own Prof Jugdeep Dhesi and Prof Graham Ellis were thought provoking and well received by our continental colleagues, while a wine tasting led by Professor Cruz-Jentoft was an unexpected highlight. Having just submitted a thesis citing his sarcopenia work throughout, it was very welcome, if a tad discombobulating, to witness his enthusiasm and expertise on Spanish wine.

Our sarcopenia grant proposal was presented and voted as the best proposal, which Carly and I were delighted about. The graduation ceremony was held on the final evening, and BGS President Professor Adam Gordon was there in his best formal attire to share in our delight.

Graduation and reflection

We learned an enormous amount, and developed relationships with colleagues from all over the continent, as well as a few from further afield. Plans are already being made to collaborate on international research projects and quality improvement, and to share learning on service development and implementation of research findings.

My feelings on graduating were mixed; sad that it was over, but also conscious that the true EAMA journey was only just beginning, with so many future collaborations to come, working together towards better healthcare for older people, sharing learning and advocating for our ageing populations. As we say in Irish 'Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine' which translates literally to 'we live in each other's shadow' but really refers to community and our need to depend on other people.

As populations around the world age and resources can be scarce, older people are depending on us. High quality effective services for older people are essential, alongside high-fidelity collaborative research, answering important research questions with meaningful translational outcomes, and avoiding unnecessary reproducing of work. The EAMA network will be crucial in working closely with our European neighbours to achieve these aims.


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