PAMA Symposium 2012 Report – International Research and the Future of Performing Arts Medicine

Ian MacDonald (Development Director for the BAPAM/UCL Performing Arts Medicine MSc) reports from the 2012 Performing Arts Medicine Association Symposium, Aspen, Colorado, July 26-29 2012:

Arriving in Aspen for the first time the eye is struck by the immense scale of the mountains and the lush greens of the tree canopies upon them. The small but beautiful town nestles amongst this splendour providing the perfect example of wilderness chic. Further up the winding highway is the tiny ski village of Snowmass, built in the 1960s as a way of accessing the incredible skiing potential of Burnt Mountain, Elk Ridge, Brush Creek and other such evocative excursions. The grandeur of the The Viceroy Hotel, the home of the PAMA conference for the past few years, sits in a prominent position at the heart of this well planned town.

This year PAMA reached the grand old age of 30 and its focus was on ‘International Research’ and ‘The Future of Performing Arts Medicine’, two subjects at the core of recent  BAPAM initiatives. Therefore, our new Diploma/MSc and our inter-collegiate research planning meant we had something good and relevant to share. As it turned out I was the last person of the conference to speak…….it goes without saying that all that had come before was a hard act to follow, but the presentation was favourably received and an invitation made to return next year to continue the conversation about R&D of Performing Arts Medicine.

There were representations from all over the map with Australia, America and Canada representing the majority of speakers. However, our own Dr Juliet Bressan from Dublin and Patrice Berque from Glasgow gave inspiring presentations on dystonia and the developments in both clinical practice and rehabilitation research. The highlight was the appearance of the founder of PAMA, Dr Alice Brandfonbrenner (pictured). She gave an inspiring and thought-provoking talk about the State of the Performing Arts Medicine Nation, receiving a standing ovation. She elicited questions such as, “What have we become?”; “Where are we going?”; “How do we develop scientifically without losing the artistry?”; “What are all these measurements of performers for?”…

Chatter in the coffee breaks was fast and furious and extremely stimulating. There was also some incredible musicianship and hospitality organised by Dr Kathleen Riley and her executive team – including violinist Cho-Liang Lin (pictured) performing astonishing Kreisler upon a multi-million dollar 1715 “Titian” Stradivarius and a remote (live but not in the room we were in) performance by Frederick Chiu of Prokofiev’s fiendish Toccata in D minor opus 11. There were also performances from many of the presenting practitioners, including a masterful rendition of “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” by your very own Jennie Morton and Ian MacDonald.

The huge passion from all, in attempting to understand the difficult paradigms that face research into such areas as hearing loss (Dr Kris Chesky and Dr Amyn M. Alain University of North Texas) and dystonia was consistent, as was the concern that we don’t lose the artist amongst the statistics and the data (Regina Campbell, Boston). There seemed to be agreement that although there is still much to measure and access, in actual fact many research protocols are well established and providing very useful and helpful information (Prof. Dr. Christoff Zalpour, Osnabruech, Germany). This was coupled with a sense from the younger members of the conference that International Projects (Dr Christine Guptill, Ontario, Canada) needed to be expanded to include them,  because future direction and opportunities within the field were not totally clear. So more to do here. Interesting presentations about psychology and mindfulness (Gail Berenson, Ohio University; Vanessa Cornett-Murtada, Minneapolis) also figured prominently sparking off keen debate.

So to the future……

The future we all hope lies in our cooperation. The Australian team (ASPAH) were very proactive this year and the we were inspired by drive of one of the world’s champions of PAM, Dr Bronwen Ackermann, setting up (in the last few weeks) the International Liaison Committee (the ILC of PAMA) to facilitate this needed global cooperation and shared thinking on a number of the current burning issues.  Hopes for an International PAM Conference once every 4 years and increased presence using social media are also high on this initial agenda.

All eyes are on us here in London as we proceed with year two of the Performing Arts Medicine MSc and all fingers are busy emailing across the time-lines to secure the development and education of the next generation of experts within the field. Watch this space.

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One Response to “PAMA Symposium 2012 Report – International Research and the Future of Performing Arts Medicine”

  1. Frances Carter says:

    Thank you, Ian, for this vivid and interesting report. Frances

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