The Symposium Exploring Autoimmune Diseases, presented by the the Relapsing Polychondritis Foundation, Race for RP, the AHN Autoimmunity Institute and Northern Michigan University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice Program was an overwhelming success.  The half-day event at Reynolds Recital Hall was held on Friday, September 20 and was filled to capacity with standing room only for upwards of 300 people in attendance.

TV6 and Fox UP also co-sponsored the event and sat down with Dr. Manzi that Friday morning for a news segment promoting the Symposium.

Kohr Motorsports graciously provided a branded race car supporting autoimmune disease awareness, a show-stopper which received a great deal of attention on the NMU campus and in the homecoming parade which followed.

During the symposium attendees listened intently to keynote speakers and leading experts in the field, Dr. Joseph Ahearn followed by Dr. Susan Manzi, as they explained the causes and factors involved in triggering an overactive response of the immune system, current treatments available for autoimmune disorders, and the importance of offering interdisciplinary care for patients suffering from these chronic diseases.  Their work at the Allegheny Health Network Autoimmunity Institute in advancing the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of autoimmune diseases has been transformative. And the Institute’s focus on improved outcomes, quality of life, and decreased cost of care, through collaborative multispecialty care, cutting-edge research, advocacy and education is unprecedented and will have a lasting impact on patients struggling with autoimmune conditions.

Dr. Emily Somers gave an incredibly detailed and thorough presentation on relapsing polychondritis (RP), exploring the pathophysiology of the immune system response in RP, the identification of etiologies, signs and symptoms of RP as well as a review of current and possible treatments of the disease.  As an autoimmune disease specialist and epidemiologist who has designed and conducted ground-breaking clinical trials for Lupus, her insights were exceedingly impressive and thought provoking.  We were especially encouraged to hear how research in relapsing polychondritis might result in important discoveries for other autoimmune diseases.

The final session of the symposium was a panel discussion with the keynote speakers as well as panel guest, Mike Duckwall, RN, FNP-BC.  Addressing audience member submissions directly, the holistic question and answer session identified appropriate nursing and medical care for patients with immune disorders focusing on the concerns from patients, nurses and physicians in attendance on the realities of living with autoimmune disorders and the challenges they have faced in diagnosing, understanding and treating these diseases.

Thank you to the distinguished keynote speakers, event organizers, volunteers, advocates and partners for helping advance a broader conversation to transform the diagnosis and care of patients with autoimmune diseases.  A special acknowledgement to the Northern Michigan University School of Nursing and Kristi Robinia, PhD, RN, Associate Dean and Director, for partnering with Race for Relapsing Polychondritis and the Relapsing Polychondritis Foundation and for facilitating this inaugural Autoimmunity Symposium.