Two days after I attended Dr. Robyn Barst’s funeral in Yonkers, N.Y., Julia Friederich (PHA's International Associate) and I flew across the world to Saudi Arabia. We had been invited to attend the Saudi Association for Pulmonary Hypertension’s (SAPH) educational meetings, the Sixth Annual Pulmonary Hypertension Meeting and Third Pulmonary Hypertension in the Young Assembly.
The two events were more than 6,000 miles apart, but they had an extraordinary connection. The SAPH meeting was opened by the Conference Chair, Dr. Maha Al Dabbagh, a pediatrician specializing in PH. She began with a tribute to Dr. Barst, describing her contributions to the field. This was followed by SAPH president, Dr. Majdy Idrees, asking the participants to stand for a moment of silence. Robyn Barst’s reach and contributions were indeed global…in 2008, she had helped develop the Saudi guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of PH.
The two days of SAPH meetings were important in expanding knowledge of PH in the region with attendance from many nations. I was particularly interested to learn about the PH experiences in many nations in the region, including Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Sudan. These presentations were different from those I usually hear and demonstrated both similarities to and differences from our own experience in the U.S.
An important reason for our attendance at the meeting was a leadership discussion on how PHA could assist SAPH in the development of a patient structure. It is always exciting to me to see physicians interested in building patient support and leadership structures – and always something PHA is anxious to support in whatever way we can. Whenever and wherever PH leadership and awareness grow, we all become stronger in the fight against this disease.
It was a wonderful experience. We thank our hosts at SAPH and look forward to rapidly evolving this partnership.