“Words matter” – a short yet powerful opening sentence by keynote speaker Anantha Shankar (Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh) perfectly captured the theme of the entire conference. Bringing together diverse voices from academia, medicine, the pharmaceutical industry, and linguistics, the conference aimed to harness collective experiences to explore a key topic: How can we cultivate greater compassion?

While the conference saw a lot of discussion around language usage in the political and justice landscape, there were fascinating conversations within the realm of healthcare. Several medical professionals delivered presentations that stressed the importance of empathy in language not only in patient interactions but also in self-care. The presentations highlighted a crucial insight: Compassion while indispensable, is not boundless. Compassion fatigue, a psychological idea underscores that compassion is a finite resource. While compassion is essential for reciprocation, it can deplete over time, and being empathetic to yourself as a caregiver or healthcare professional is equally important. This perspective provides an important learning: we cannot rely on constantly expecting HCPs and caregivers to be motivated by being supportive of patients, but we also need to be compassionate to their concerns and requirements. Only if they also feel supported and heard can they feel enabled and capable of showing greater empathy to patient concerns.

I had the privilege of representing HRW at this conference, where I participated as a speaker on a panel, discussing the findings from research we conducted in collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim. Our study utilized Linguistic Analysis as a tool to better understand the everyday cognitive challenges experienced by individuals with bipolar disorder. During the session, we highlighted the value of linguistic analysis in uncovering symptoms that are often underreported, going beyond well-known aspects like mood swings. Our research revealed how cognitive impairments in memory, attention, and learning significantly affect daily functioning, including social interactions, financial decisions, and task completion.

You can read more about our study here. Overall, the conference experience was highly rewarding and the insights I’ve shared in this blog only begin to scratch the surface of what I gained from attending this conference. It was an amazing experience and I hope that we are able to attend next year as well.


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