The Amanda Young Foundation is a non-profit community organisation dedicated to reducing deaths in WA from meningococcal disease. It was established in March 1998 by the parents of Amanda Young, an 18 year old UWA student, who died from meningococcal septicaemia in 1997. In support of the foundation, Dr Charlene Kahler (School of Biomedical, Biomolecular and Chemical Sciences), Dr Steve Webb (School of Medicine and Pharmacology) and Dr Clayton Golledge (School of Medicine and Pharmacology) were invited to organize a one day conference to educate medical practitioners regarding meningococcal disease.
The conference which was held in September 2006 was opened by Hon Jim McGinty, Minister for Health and attracted over 170 delegates including community health nurses and emergency medical staff, at the Burswood Convention Centre. The clinical session was delivered by Dr Steve Webb, Dr Robert Booy (Co-Director of the National Center for Immunisation Research and Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases, University of Sydney) and Dr Scott Blackwell. Speakers highlighted the difficulty in early identification of the disease and emphasized the importance of seeking early medical treatment due to the rapidity of the infection.
The latest advances in the development of meningococcal vaccines were presented by a range of speakers in the scientific sessions. There is currently a vaccine for meningococcal serogroup C disease but the majority of cases in WA are meningococcal serogroup B for which there is no vaccine. International speakers Professor Mike Apicella (University of Iowa, USA) and Dr Paul Langford (Imperial College, London), and local speakers Dr Peter Richmond (The Telethon Institute for Child Health) and Dr Charlene Kahler presented the latest developments in the search for a meningococcal B vaccine candidate.
Many people contributed to the success of the conference including master of ceremonies Kay Stammers from Media One who have developed DVDs for public distribution and Ms Lisa White, a meningococcal disease survivor who gave the opening address. In addition, the conference would not have been possible without the support of the charities generous sponsors Burswood Entertainment Complex, Corporate Theatre and the Health Insurance Fund of WA.
The conference was successful in enabling health professionals to gain up to date knowledge of meningococcal disease prevention and treatment through the presentation of current research and practice. It garnered widespread positive comments from delegates, including medical students who took the opportunity to attend. In addition, the latest advances in the development of meningococcal vaccines were presented by leading international researchers within the field. Meningococcal awareness generated through the conference was excellent with media coverage in the news on Channels 7, 9 and 10, and radio stations 6PR, Mix 94.5, 92.9 and Nova 93.7.