On September 22nd and 23rd, the Myocarditis Foundation (MF) held its first Family Support Meeting and Researcher Workshop in Orlando, Florida. The Myocarditis Foundation held these two events in conjunction with the Heart Failure Society of America’s (HFSA) Annual Scientific Meeting. HFSA had invited the Myocarditis Foundation to co-host a myocarditis symposium with experts from around the world coming together to share the most recent findings in the field of myocarditis. Being that there would be so many members of the Myocarditis Foundation’s Board of Directors in attendance of HFSA’s meeting, the MF decided to simultaneously hold meetings for the families and researchers of the Myocarditis Foundation.
The Myocarditis Foundation’s events started on the evening of the 22nd, where a Welcome Reception was held at Maggiano’s Italian Restaurant in Orlando, FL. Families, researchers, and board members came together to meet one another and share stories in a casual atmosphere.
Candace Moose, Founder and Executive Director Emeritus, gave a talk highlighting the history of the Myocarditis Foundation and its major accomplishments over the years. An anonymous donor graciously paid for the delicious food, adding to a memorable evening with so many families and patients affected by myocarditis and those who have dedicated their professional lives to fighting this disease.
At 8:00 the next morning, the Family Support Meeting commenced along with the Researcher Workshop. The Myocarditis Foundation’s Family Support Meeting’s goals were to provide information and answer questions a safe, open atmosphere for families and patients and also to allow for families of loved ones and survivors to share their stories. Dr. Leslie Cooper, Dr. Lori Blauwet, Dr. Monte Willis, and Candace Moose all gave talks, followed by talks from survivors and families of loved ones: Jeff Grant, Carolyn Sweet, Kristen Stephens, and Katie Kendjorsky. (Please click Family-Support-Meeting-Program-2013.pdf to see the detailed program of the Family Support Meeting.)
This meeting was highly emotional, filled with tears, hugs, and smiles; but many families shared that this meeting brought “a small sense of peace” to them and their family; therefore fulfilling the goals of the Myocarditis Foundation’s Family Support Meeting. But not only did this meeting provide families with support and information, it also allowed for these families, many of whom had long been talking trough email and Facebook, a chance to come together and meet face-to-face. Many life-long connections were made this weekend. As so many families know, being able to talk to others going through such difficult situations is priceless and a huge part of both the grieving and healing process of myocarditis.
Next door to the Family Support Meeting, the Myocarditis Foundation’s Researcher Workshop was being held. The Myocarditis Foundation graciously received a grant from St. Jude Medical Foundation, which allowed for the Myocarditis Foundation to invite all of its past and present research grant recipients to attend a workshop to help them advance in their professional career while fostering a love for myocarditis research. It is the Myocarditis Foundation’s belief that if these young research grant recipients can be offered a mentorship program along with their grant, there will be a continuous cycle of researchers and physicians dedicated to the disease myocarditis, enhancing and growing the number of professionals working to bring advancements in the field of myocarditis.
The Researcher Workshop began with presentations from grant recipients: Dr. Laure Case, Dr. Chandirasegaran Massilamany, Dr. David Marchant, and Dr. Bettina Heidecker. Following the grant recipient talks, were talks given by Dr. Madeline Cunningham, Dr. DeLisa Fairweather, Dr. Leslie Cooper, and Lindsey Davis. (Please click Researcher Meeting Program to see the complete program for the Researcher Workshop.) These professional talks were aimed at offering tools, advice, and information to help these researchers succeed in the field of myocarditis research.
Following both meetings, the two groups came together to share a lunch and to continue to tell the stories of the families who’s amazing fundraisers fund the critical research the Myocarditis Foundation’s researchers complete. By allowing the researchers to talk to the families who have been directly affected by the disease it creates an extreme personal connection to the work they do in their labs around the world and also gives the families a chance to see first-hand what their fundraising money helps to support.
Lindsey Davis, Director of the Myocarditis Foundation, also awarded certificates of appreciation to Jeff Grant for his dedication and help in founding the MF, Giovanna Caccialanza for her ongoing support and successful fundraisers in memory of her son, and to Katie Kenjorsky for her dedication and fundraising successes in memory of her mother.
The MF hopes to hold similar meetings every year. The location of each meeting will be dependent upon where national cardiology meetings take place. All future events will be posted on the Myocarditis Foundation’s website. The MF will be posting videos of these talks to the Myocarditis Foundation’s YouTube channel, so that all families affected by myocarditis can hear the expert words shared by the speakers.
The Myocarditis Foundation would like to thank all of the families, patients, researchers, speakers, and board members who were in attendance at the Orlando meetings. Also a sincere thank you to those that continue to support the Myocarditis Foundation and to St. Jude Medical Foundation. This was an unbelievable event that brought so much peace, understanding, and scientific knowledge to those affected by myocarditis and to those who will bring new understandings to this disease.