You will not become an expert by attending or watching a Myeloma Round Table (MRT) patient education event, that’s not the purpose. But you will likely experience something that will be memorable which will help you communicate more effectively with the people who treat and care for you. That’s the goal.
MRTs are one part of the HealthTree Foundation’s educational offerings. They can be a good way for patients and others to start, continue, or deepen understanding about myeloma treatment, research, and community issues.
There is no preset formula for each Round Table agenda other than to provide attendees with insights, many of which are improvised in discussions and question and answer sessions. One of the more memorable moments occurred in the discussion of an MRT webcast on Decision-Making for Relapsed/Refractory Myeloma in 2021 in which Dr. William Matsui unknowingly made a mission statement of sorts of a good physician:
“For me, that is the reason why I like taking care of myeloma. You’ve got to be a good listener and you’ve got to be a good historian. And then, at the same time, you’ve got to be forward thinking about what’s new, what are the data, and what might be coming down the line. So I think it’s one of the more challenging things that we do in oncology, but that’s why I really love [treating] myeloma, because you have such a myriad of ways of approaching it…working with the patient. If it was as easy as just saying, ‘You’ve relapsed, this is the only thing we can do,’ that’s pretty easy…We want to make a good choice, we don’t want to make a hasty choice that causes problems.”
MRTs feature speakers, discussions, and question and answer sessions that expand on this, with more than 132 speakers since the first program in 2016. Although we try to make them as unique as possible, there is obvious overlap, something essential for lay audiences. But it’s really worth attending or watching for gems like the one above.
Indeed, Dr. Matsui’s inner thoughts became the theme of the first session of the upcoming Austin MRT on Saturday, March 25, at the Thompson Conference Center on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. Just getting myeloma specialists to delve into this should be worth attending—for free.
The audience will learn from four experts about how THEY make decisions, the thoughts that go through their minds as they assess each individual patient to make treatment decisions. In the afternoon, the speakers will do deep dives into the concepts of how to extend remissions and the roles that stem cells play in therapy. The subsequent faculty discussion will help the audience make sense of complicated, but essential, concepts in as plain a language as possible.
MRTs will be held in Indianapolis on April 22, Durham, NC on May 20, and three more will be announced for the fall. In the six programs, we will have a total of twelve sessions, some for newly-diagnosed, some for relapsed/refractory, and each with something for everyone.
Over the course of the MRT program, we have had more than 280 presentations and hours of discussions and question and answer times. Here are some memorable talks and discussions to whet your appetite. It’s not a “Best of” list — all of them are — but interesting, essential glimpses.
Try out one of these videos per week for a while and let your interest take you to other HealthTree patient education programs; put in your toe or dive in.
Every member of the myeloma community should know about the one myeloma classic and come back to it annually: Dr. Morie Gertz’s (Mayo Clinic) Weeds In the Garden introduction and overview of myeloma and its basics. In addition to the Chicago version above, our archives also have earlier versions from Buffalo and Chicago.
For those of you wanting to understand MGUS and smoldering myeloma, you probably won’t find a more expert, articulate voice than Dr. Faith Davies (NYU).
As a former history teacher, I think it is essential to understand how we’ve come to where we are today in order to better assess the future. There are few who know the Ever-Changing Landscape of Treatment in myeloma than Dr. Leif Bergsagel (Mayo Clinic), whose father was the first to use melphalan, as he puts today’s progress into a way that matters to patients.
His perspective helps to explain why he opened a program to explain Why We’re Optimistic about Newly Diagnosed Myeloma. And to understand how that optimism extends to all of myeloma, it’s worth revisiting the discussion between Jenny Ahlstrom and Drs. Rafael Fonseca (Mayo Clinic) and Ola Landgren (Miami) in Assessing the State of Myeloma. While more than a year old, the discussion remains very relevant today.
Two of the most important topics today on patients’ minds are explained clearly by Drs. Madhav Dhodapkar (Emory) as he explains Concepts of Immunotherapy and Urvi Shah (Sloan Kettering) explains how patients can assist their treatments in Nutrition for Myeloma Patients.
And to show that although it’s serious, there are times to appreciate the commitment, knowledge and passion of physicians in as we eavesdrop on a conversation between Drs. Sborov, Mohyuddin (both Utah) and Hofmeister (Emory).
If you can attend one in person, you’ll be happy you did. Despite the topic. As one of the attendees of the Salt Lake City Myeloma Round Table in 2022 told us, “as much as attending this type of event online is helpful, it is BETTER in-person.”
One lasting lesson I learned from my students as middle and high school teacher, in what seems lifetimes ago, was that everyone has a different, unique way of learning. Ideally, it’s up to the teacher to figure out what works for each student. Realistically, very few students have that kind of individualized attention.
Some learn sequentially, others through metaphors and examples. Some need story, a narrative to “get it.” Others don’t. Some need to know if this is going to be on a test. Others just try to figure it out. And most will never care in the way you, the teacher, will. But if one is diagnosed with a disease like myeloma, sticking ones’s head in the sand is not a reasonable option.
about the author
Greg Brozeit has been with the HealthTree Foundation since 2015 when he began volunteering for the Myeloma Crowd. Prior to that he worked with Dr. Bart Barlogie and the International Myeloma Foundation, inaugurating many myeloma patient advocacy and education programs.