The 2017 Fifth Sense Members Conference was held on 5 November at St George’s Conference Centre in Leeds and we’re delighted to say it was a really positive and successful event. This was our fourth Members Conference and the first since the 2015 event at the University of Surrey in Guildford. We decided to hold the 2017 event in Leeds to make it more accessible for members in the North of England, following feedback we’d received in our 2016 membership survey, and it was great to meet lots of new members whilst welcoming back people who attended the 2014 and 2015 events.
BBC Radio 4 presenter Kathy Clugston opened proceedings with a fantastic talk on her experience of being born without a sense of smell, and the journey she undertook to learn more about her condition, which was the subject of a 2016 radio documentary, the Neglected Sense. Kathy talked about how she’s met many other people affected by smell and taste disorders since then, and set the tone for the rest of the conference by saying how important these opportunities to learn from each other and and experts including clinicians and scientists are.
Consultant ENT Surgeon and Fifth Sense trustee Prof. Carl Philpott then gave an overview of smell and taste disorders, their causes and treatments. There was then a Q&A session where guests had lots of time to ask questions and share their stories. We were also able to provide answers to people who weren’t able to attend the conference. This was a very important part of the day, because as many of us know, it can be very difficult to obtain useful information and advice from healthcare professionals.
The attendees were then treated to a delicious lunch provided by local business Manjit’s Kitchen, including a paneer curry and a South Indian lentil dhal with a lime-infused salad. We always try to put on a good lunch for our events, and we were delighted with this one. Manjit received several emails from Fifth Sense members thanking her for the fantastic food and all her hard work, and we’ll be going back to her for catering next time we’re in Leeds.
Dale Smith from our partners FlavorActiV then gave an update on the Taste, Train, Enjoy pilot project, which is focused on helping people affected by olfactory loss better understand and utilise their sense of taste. This included a tasting session of bitter tastes at different concentrations, which went well, with most guests being able to detect the bitter tasting samples.
One point that came up from this test was if people can taste bitterness, how can they use it in their cooking, and what types of foods should they try. Providing practical advice on this is going to be a crucial part of the next phase of the project, and we’re currently in discussions with FlavorActiV on next steps. Watch this space!
Next, chocolatier Fiona Sciolti gave a talk and demonstration of chocolates which she’s specially developed for people with olfactory loss. She explained that this came about from attending many food road shows where she was approached by people eager to taste her sweets, but who couldn’t appreciate them because of their smell impairment. The chocolate tasting was really enjoyable and many thanks to Fiona for sharing her passion with us.
Prof. Philpott then gave some updates on a number of research studies that have recently taken place. We were then extremely privileged to be joined by Dr Steven Munger, Director of the University of Florida Center for Smell and Taste. Dr Munger talked about the huge success of the SmellTaste2017 event, and how patient involvement and empowerment was a key driver for the development of a new clinical programme for patients with smell disorders at UF Health.
There was then a report from the Fifth Sense Trustees, presented by Duncan Boak. A key highlight was the news that our application for registered charity status has been approved by the Charities Commission, news of which was received the day before the conference. Read more here.
The day ended on a high with Prof. Philpott playing a video of his epic bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats, which he undertook to raise money for Fifth Sense (read more here), followed by a raffle of chocolates kindly donated by Fiona.
We’d like to say a huge thanks to all our guests, speakers, and volunteers who helped make the event possible, to St George’s Conference Centre for hosting the conference, and to Manjit for the wonderful lunch. We’re already looking forward to the next Fifth Sense event!