A World Down Syndrome Day celebration
On World Down Syndrome Day (21 March), Emily Blackburn, Cliona Farrell, and Paige Mumford (UK DRI at UCL) co-organised and ran an impactful engagement event for people with Down syndrome, their families and carers. The day was a huge celebration, with the goal of educating people about Down syndrome and sharing the ongoing research, including highlighting the link between Alzheimer's disease and Down syndrome. At the event, there were talks from scientists and medical professionals, as well individuals who have Down syndrome. Many engaging activities targeted toward all age groups were hosted, including making play-doh neurons, using microscopes, making brain hats, pairing chromosomes and a photo-booth.
Emily, Paige and Cliona’s work was crucial in making this event a great success, and the three were jointly awarded the UK DRI Engagement Prize for 2023.
On receiving the award, Cliona said:
“I think that it is incredibly important that we, as researchers, share our work with the people we are trying to benefit. People with Down syndrome have a very high risk to develop Alzheimer's disease, as well as other conditions.
At this annual event, researchers across many London institutions shared their research or medical expertise in Down syndrome in an accessible way, to encourage questions and discussions. We also had record numbers of attendees this year, highlighting the need for these types of science engagement events. The experience was incredible rewarding and we look forward to hosting the event again in March 2024!”
As these examples demonstrate, robust engagement is fundamental to undertaking research that transforms lives. When done well, it ceases to be just an add-on and becomes integral to the research itself. The researchers’ commitment to engagement initiatives both empowers the community, and propels progress. If engagement is approached as fundamental rather than supplemental, new horizons open for discoveries that truly make a difference to people affected by dementia.
Article published: 6 December 2023
Image credits: Imperial College London, Sophie Keeling