The Encephalitis Society’s Professional seminar was held in MacFarlanes LLP in London on the 3rd of December 2012 and was to be the launch of the much anticipated diagnostic algorithm and management guidelines for encephalitis.

Nearly 50 delegates hailing from all parts of the country attended for talks from Professors, Doctors, Society members and medical students.

On arrival we were issued with name badges and a welcome pack containing the programme for the day, flyers and most helpfully our own copy of the new Professional Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Encephalitis.

The seminar commenced with a warm welcome from Ava Easton, CEO of the Encephalitis Society.

The audience included patients and their families who are members of the Encephalitis Society and a wide variety of healthcare professionals ranging from nurses, doctors from foundation level to specialist trainees, research fellows, consultants and professors. There were also medical students from first to fifth year, neuropsychologists and art therapists, all dealing with Encephalitis in the context of their own speciality.

The range of disciplines and experiences exhibited by the delegates made the discussions totally unique since the same topic could be explored from so many points of view. It was a rare opportunity to meet with such a mix of people all of whom have the same goal: to promote education concerning Encephalitis and improve its diagnosis, treatment and management.

The first talk was a background to the National Encephalitis Guidelines by Professor Tom Solomon, Chair of the Encephalitis Society Professional Panel and Director of the Institute of Infection and Global Health. I found this presentation the most useful from a student perspective as it gave a basic introduction to Encephalitis followed by more in-depth details of the disease, and was an excellent learning opportunity for the more junior audience members like myself.  Professor Solomon went through several case studies making the session interactive, entertaining and creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. The cases exhibited the many different ways in which Encephalitis can present to a health care team and how differently patients can be managed. The key message in his talk was the importance of early recognition and management of the disease in achieving better outcomes for patients.

The next talk was “The importance of a diagnostic and management algorithm – what happens when things go wrong and consequences of Encephalitis for patients and their families.”  Delivered jointly by Ava Easton CEO of The Encephalitis Society and Dr Benedict Michael NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow. Ava began, explaining the impact of Encephalitis on patients and their families, using case studies and emotive videos helping me to truly understand the devastation that can occur if treatment is delayed.

Dr Michael then took over with “How Things Go Wrong”. He talked about the research he and his colleagues had done in this area and explained that there are often delays at every stage in the management of these patients, especially when a lumbar puncture (LP) is not completed early. He emphasised the importance of early suspicion, LP, diagnosis and treatment, particularly addressing the students and junior doctors who are, or are soon to be attending to possible cases of Encephalitis.

The talk naturally prompted discussion and this was invaluable as many questions were asked and answered by experts in the field, an opportunity you rarely get to witness or participate in as a medical student.

A whistle stop tour of the new National Encephalitis Guidelines was given by Dr Michael and Dr Rachel Kneen a Paediatric Neurologist at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool. The key messages were the clear need for improved patient care, how the guidelines will support this and an overview of the on-going research around Encephalitis.

Following an interesting discussion and a good break where refreshments were provided, we were lucky enough to hear from Professor Angela Vincent (Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine) who gave a talk on “Encephalitis – Chasing a moving target.” This detailed the presentation of her research which had found that infection can occur with co-existing anti-bodies. Registrars, research fellows and consultants were highly engaged, absorbing information and asking questions. I learnt a great deal from this session and it prompted me to do some further reading, vastly improving my knowledge on the subject.

The next talk, in contrast to its predecessor, saw the furrowed brows in the room relax and cogs shift down a gear for a highly entertaining presentation by Professor Tom Solomon “Patient and Public Involvement: An Academic’s Odyssey”. He explained the value of organisations like the Encephalitis Society and of taking part in Patient and Public Involvement events. He described how he had found himself running the London Marathon as the society’s very own “Mad Professor” to raise money and awareness for Encephalitis, raising around £20,000 and breaking a Guinness World Record as the fastest marathon runner dressed as a Doctor. He urged junior doctors and students to get involved with projects like these.  The presentation was bright, funny and highly enjoyable.

Following a further short discussion, the winner of the Encephalitis Society’s Student Essay Competition 2011, Sophie Binks, 5th year medical student (Brighton and Sussex University) gave a presentation of her winning entry titled “The story of a patient with childhood encephalomyelitis: the effect on the patient, family and society and the role of health care professionals”.  Sophie provided an overview of her essay and concentrated on the effect on the person, giving the audience insight into what happens to people on an emotional and social level rather than a physical one. She also explained the things that can improve a person’s life after Encephalitis and reminded us all of the consequences of this disease.

There was a final presentation of the day and the prizes were then awarded for the Encephalitis Society 2012 Student Essay Competition and Travel Bursary. The winners were:

1st Prize – Bart van Herwijnen for his essay entitled ‘Bone Marrow – The future of Encephalitis Treatment’

Runner Up – Timothy Jones for his essay

‘Evaluation of the Pathophysiological Mechanisms Underlying Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis’

Travel Bursary – Clark Russell for his forthcoming medical elective to Vancouver.

Once the applause had ceased and pictures had been taken there was a further opportunity for questions and Professor Solomon was on hand for answers and a final summary of the day.

The whole afternoon was followed by a lovely wine and cheese reception where we had opportunity to chat to fellow medical students and several of the doctors, and patients/family members.


All in all I found that the range of talks and discussions catered for everyone, whatever grade of training, discipline or interest concerning Encephalitis. The diversity of the audience could have made the pitching of the talks difficult but the speakers managed this incredibly well with a range of information and plenty of opportunity to ask questions. The juxtaposition and timing of the presentations made them easy to digest and allowed me to get the most out of the afternoon. There was an encouraging atmosphere for students and it was an excellent way to meet new people. This was a rare opportunity to hear the presentation of brand new research and talk to experts in Encephalitis. I would certainly recommend this seminar to anyone who is dealing with Encephalitis, either professionally or personally and wants a chance to expand their knowledge and have their questions answered by the leaders in this field. I feel my overall knowledge of Encephalitis as a disease and of the effect that it has on the patients and their families has been enriched.

With thanks to Macfarlanes LLP for their fabulous venue and St Andrews Healthcare for their sponsorship of the event.

Copies of the new Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Encephalitis (both paediatric and adult version exist) can be downloaded from  Hard copies can also be obtained from The Encephalitis Society.

Anyone interested in attending the 2013 seminar in December should contact The Encephalitis Society on