Report on the First Annual Conference held in Cuba 2015

The inaugural Global Brain Health Institute Conference took place December 8–11, 2015. The annual meeting provides an opportunity for faculty, staff, and trainees to determine how to partner effectively and to develop innovative projects that will reduce the scale and impact of dementia internationally. The three-day program includes presentations, panel discussions, lectures, and social gatherings.

This first meeting focused on the initial regions of GBHI emphasis: Latin America and the Mediterranean region. The meeting was held in Cuba, a country already engaged in training medical doctors for resource-limited areas around the world. GBHI hopes to engage with Cuba early in operations.

Key leaders in brain health from the World Health Organization, Alzheimer’s Association, Canadian Institute of Health Research, and Institute of Aging presented to the group. Conference speakers provided evening community lectures to local physicians and caregivers. The Cuban Ministry of Health and local television media made presentations to reduce the stigma of aging and dementia while sharing the excitement around the new initiative. Group sessions addressed critical issues around the design of a training program and included challenging issues such as reducing the “brain drain” from regions engaged. The conference organizers held a pre-conference set of meetings with the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery (INN) and included case presentations and teaching.

Conference Organizers

  • Bruce L. Miller, MD — University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine
  • Ian Robertson, PhD — Trinity College Dublin
  • Pedro A. Valdés-Sosa, MD, PhD, DSc — Research Cuban Neurosciences Center

Accomplishments

  • GBHI provided 16 scholarships for individuals representing eight different countries spanning Latin America, the Mediterranean, US, and Ireland.
  • Key stakeholders attended from 15 countries and actively engaged in the meeting.
  • Cuba announced the approval of a new aging plan from the Ministry of Health with GBHI leadership participating in the press release and interviews
  • A Cuban TV show, broadly watched in Cuba and South America interviewed speakers at the meeting for a special episode of the show based on brain health.
  • GBHI leadership has been asked to serve on the scientific committee of the International Psychogeriatric Association’s 2016 International Congress.
  • Several new collaborations were launched during the meeting.
  • Leadership received outstanding input on curriculum content, partnerships, avoiding “brain drain,” and assessment of regional needs.

The first GBHI annual meeting exceeded expectations. Attendees were highly engaged and participated in the full meeting. The mixture of presentations and discussions across topics allowed participants to listen, learn, and share. International leaders in brain health embraced these discussions and, together, these discussion groups advised GBHI leadership about critical gaps in brain health worldwide. Future conferences will include more policy, advocacy, economics and non-physician experience.