2022 International Conference on Eating Disorders: My Experiences Presenting Virtually and Meeting with an Eating Disorder Expert

by Meredith Bowman

As my first time attending ICED, I was very impressed how the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) adapted to the challenges of running this conference virtually. The main navigation home screen made it easy to find what you were looking for as an “Agenda” tab listed all of the times and dates of specific events. Additionally, the virtual platform was very engaging and interactive with really cool features. There were Special Interest Group panels, workshops, and a networking lounge where you could “Meet the Experts.” There was even an “Event Game” with challenges to earn points and win prizes.

The platform Gathertown was used for poster and paper presentations specifically. I created my own avatar and even customized its clothing. Once in Gathertown, we were able to turn on our camera and use our computer cursor to move around. In the main hall, a “Bulletin Board” told you which room had which topic (i.e., Body Image, Atypical Eating Disorders) so viewers could find the speaker or topic they were looking for. Because Gathertown relied on spatial audio, once you approached a paper or poster, you could speak to the presenter and whoever else was around like you were actually in an exhibit hall.

Other students in my room were from the University of Waterloo in Canada and the University of Sydney in Australia. It was a great experience getting to meet them and see their posters! I presented my poster that summarized the results of Dr. Wu’s meta-analysis project focusing on metabolic-related biomarkers in bulimia nervosa. This meta-analysis focused on case-control comparisons of peripheral biomarkers (i.e., blood, serum, plasma, urine, saliva, body fluids, and hair). Using data from quantitative studies comparing these metabolic-related peripheral biomarkers in adults (age ≥ 18), I used Review Manager (RevMan Version 5.4.1) to analyze the data. The results showed that amylase, cholesterol, and triglycerides were significantly higher in individuals with bulimia, while glucose and leptin were significantly lower.

Additionally, in an effort to help foster connections that do not come as naturally when presenting virtually, members of AED gave participants an opportunity to meet with AED Fellows. I had the opportunity to meet with Therese Waterhous, an eating disorder expert in Oregon. In our conversation she described her journey from conducting biochemistry research to owning a private practice. Inspired by the shortcomings with eating disorder treatment, she described her efforts to educate local health care providers, medical students, and the public about eating disorders in an effort to increase awareness and help eliminate stigma. I was inspired hearing about her motivations for pursuing a career in eating disorders and everything she has done to really make a difference in others’ lives. She showed me how even just one person can create immense change in an understudied field.

I appreciate all of the members from the AED that worked tirelessly to facilitate ICED and make it a great experience for both presenters and attendees. I also greatly appreciate my mentor Dr. Wu for encouraging me to attend this conference and helping me craft an abstract and create a poster I could present. It was great to see how ICED overcame the challenges being of virtual and am very thankful for the opportunity to present at ICED and meet Therese.