Discover how SAS doctor Dr Lucy Williams used a professional development grant to attend an international conference.

Using the SAS Professional Development Grant for the 3rd World Congress on Abdominal and Pelvic Pain
I'm a specialty doctor working 50% anaesthetics and 50% pain medicine. The two overlap with a regular gynaecology list with a surgeon who has a particular interest in endometriosis and pelvic pain.

Earlier this year he told me about a meeting in Washington DC - the 3rd World Congress on Abdominal and Pelvic Pain. It's organised by the International Pelvic Pain Society and we agreed it would be great if we could go together. Cost was obviously an issue since most of my study leave budget was already allocated to the British Pain Society ASM. Flicking through Anaesthesia, I noticed an advert for the SAS Travel Grant. This was only a week before the closing date, but I managed to pull an application together.

I was delighted to learn I'd been awarded £1,000. This made the trip financially feasible and I got busy booking flights, accommodation and the conference. Unfortunately, my colleague wasn't able to come with me so I set off on a tight schedule, certain I'd meet people with shared interests.

At the Congress
The Congress comprised three days of very comprehensive lectures covering every aspect of pelvic pain. One of the speakers was an internationally renowned Australian pain researcher called Lorimer Moseley. I must confess to being a little star-struck and sent a picture to my pain team colleagues back home.

The audience was multi-disciplinary with a lot of women's health physiotherapists as well as a variety of surgeons and pain physicians. There was a small contingent from the UK. One British gynaecologist was chairing a session and came from Oxford, one of our neighbouring hospitals. I had a really good discussion about how they run a multi-disciplinary pelvic pain clinic for young women. We agreed I should go along and see how it worked there because I could see it would be an ideal service to replicate in Swindon.

Meeting international colleagues
It was fascinating to meet people from other countries. Health systems vary enormously around the world but it's enlightening to discover how similar the problems are, wherever you work. The patients can be quite challenging, with a focus on a surgical cure for their problem. Surgery definitely has a place but wider pain management principles can improve outcomes and reduce suffering.

Sharing knowledge and developing skills
My main motivation for attending this meeting was to get an update from experts in the field of chronic pelvic pain to share with my own colleagues and look to development of our local services. Swindon is a rapidly growing town with a young population. Pelvic pain affects women more commonly than men and can be a very disabling condition. It peaks in women of child-bearing age and interferes with work and home life as well as with personal relationships.

Developing a pelvic pain multi-disciplinary team
I have started a pelvic pain MDT with gynaecology colleagues and we hope to expand this to a fully functioning multi-disciplinary service. This will take a bit of time but we are building up some momentum. I run a monthly clinic in Womens' Health Outpatients and filter out some of our referrals for pelvic pain. This is a toe in the door towards a joint clinic with my colleague.

The case for conferences
International conferences are expensive and have disproportionate environmental impact. However, they can be a catalyst for change in delivery of our services by ensuring you are aiming for international best practice. Getting out of the domestic sphere exposes you to new ideas and ways of working. Ironically, it took a trip to Washington to meet my clinical neighbours. None of my gynaecology colleagues knew what they were doing just up the road and they are keen to learn as well.

In two years, the meeting will come to London and I anticipate that several of us will be going. This year would not have been possible without the support of the AAGBI. I would encourage anyone to consider applying if they want to drive service development.