The 2018 Vitiligo International Symposium , which took place November 9-10 in Detroit, Michigan, brought together an international community of dermatologists, scientists, pharmaceutical representatives and – for the first time – patients. Founded in 2016, the two-day annual conference provides a forum for the exchange of research ideas and results and the collection of patient input on advocacy efforts, quality of life and perception.

The 27 participating vitiligo patients represented five countries including the United States, France, Morocco, Zimbabwe and Canada. Joining more than 160 conference attendees, patients had the opportunity to listen to research updates, participate in a panel discussion, attend a presentation on vitiligo and depression, and participate in an open mic session.

“The patient voice helps in several ways,” said Dr. Iltefat Hamzavi, dermatologist at Henry Ford Hospital and one of the conference organisers. “It provides purpose and meaning as all stakeholders need a little inspiration and reminder of why we do what we do. Patients also provide the endpoint to define success.”

Dr. Hamzavi went on to explain that patient input helps with the development of tools to measure the physical and emotional toll of vitiligo. In turn, those measures can be used to improve study designs, which will ultimately bring new medicines, surgeries and treatments to patients.

The 2018 Vitiligo International Symposium was organised by the Global Vitiligo Foundation and it was a great success. This gave me an incentive to organise similar pan-Hellenic events with the participation of vitiligo patients.