BLOG: Back to the future ISCoS style

“In order to see where we are going, we not only must remember where we have been, but we must understand where we have been.” — Ella Baker

Well what a week ISCoS 2021 was!  Were you there? I have been attending ISCoS Annual Meetings since 2017 (all discussed in my previous blog and have enjoyed every single meeting. However, for ISCoS 2021, I was more involved and got a peek at some of the backstage workings and let me tell you, there is so much work that goes into this annual event! If you attended, please let us know what you thought of the meeting by filling in our survey.

This year I took on the role of Social Media Lead, sat in on Communication Committee meetings, steering group committees, wrote blogs, hosted podcast episodes and worked with the team plotting the news and content for our social media feeds. If you aren’t already following us, you should be!

But what came to light to me was not just the rich history of ISCoS but the rich history of our profession and what we do and why we do it. You only had to listen to Dr Charles Tator’s Guttmann lecture to see the full timeline of where we started, how far we’ve come, and how much more we can still do – so exciting!

We know where our history started. From the earliest mention of treating spinal cord injuries and paraplegia dates back to 3,000BC in Egypt, to the works of Ambroise Paré, Charles Frazier, Donald Munro to Sir Ludwig ‘Poppa’ Guttman and the birth of modern-day spinal cord injury treatment.

Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson said, “If I could say anything to Sir Ludwig it would be, “Thank you”… Before he did his rehab work at Stoke Mandeville if you broke your back or your neck, you were just left in hospital to die; it was that simple.” I think most of the spinal cord injury field would concur!

It is this evolution of care that has changed the landscape of our profession. Listening to Prof Ruth Marshall and Dr Susie Charlifue discuss the changes made to the society, beginning as the International Medical Society of Paraplegia that was predominately a society for physicians that has grown into a society to support the multidisciplinary approach of spinal cord injury care. This approach is essential to the future of care we provide; we don’t just wish to keep the patient alive; it is now about giving the best care we can, to provide independence, dignity and freedom to the patient, a life worth living. I think that is why ISCoS has such a strong community, we are all striving for the same goal!

As Sir Ludwig Guttmann said, “Don’t worry about what you have lost. Just make the most of what you have left. Remember, what counts is ability, not disability.”

This is why a society such as ISCoS is so important, providing platforms to learn, connect, exchange ideas and work to a global best practice. The programme at this years ISCoS 2021, was absolutely fascinating. Did you see the amount of lived experience content? I especially enjoyed the course led by Dr Linda Jones on how pre-clinical and clinical researchers can make their work accessible for for people living with SCI. The live Q&A after the course led by John Chernesky on establishing consumer engagement programs had a lively discussion of the importance of engaging consumers in research but also outside of research.

So many great discussions that happened in the sidebars of the recorded presentations and during the live Q&As. Remember you can still catch up, view and register if you haven’t already to view the sessions from ISCoS 2021 – all will be available to view until the beginning of November 2021. I know there are a number of sessions that I will be watching that I wasn’t able to stay up for (I’m an early to bed, early to rise type!) and many that I want to watch again!

If you are not already a member of ISCoS, I encourage all SCI professionals to join ISCoS and become involved in a committee, especially those of you who, like me,  are early career researchers. Invaluable connections to be made! P.S there is an open spot on the Communications Committee and I would love for you to join us! If you would like more information email

Keep an eye on your email, the ISCoS website, and our socials as I will be in touch with info, updates and news in the coming months, from the opening of the abstract submissions on the 3rd January 2022 to seeing you all in Vancouver 15-18th September Vancouver 2022. We have some exciting times ahead…

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Dr Jenn Coker ~ 2021

Where to find us

National Spinal Injuries Centre,
Stoke Mandeville Hospital,
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire,
HP21 8AL, United Kingdom

How to contact us

Tel: +44 1296 315 866


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