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  1. Those who wish to gain practical tools for living optimally with rare diseases are encouraged to attend the annual Living Rare Living Stronger Patient and Family Forum, hosted by the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) and set this year for June 26-27. The conference brings together patients, families, healthcare professionals, and other supporters for learning, sharing, and connecting. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the general sessions, breakout workshops, and networking will again be virtual. The sessions, which will offer perspectives from patients, caregivers, and the medical community, will air live and be recorded for later viewing. Throughout the forum, participants will be able to visit the exhibit hall and have peer meetings with other attendees. Also this year, the Rare Impact Awards will return as part of the program. That presentation, on June 28, honors individuals, organizations, and industry innovators for exceptional work benefitting the rare disease community. “The health and well-being of people living with rare diseases, their loved ones and those working to improve their lives continues to remain a top priority for all of us here at NORD,” the organization stated in its forum announcement. “The COVID-19 pandemic brought us new ways to engage with our community and our 2020 virtual program was the most successful forum to date! In 2021 we will continue to work hard to keep our community healthy and safe while engaging in this impactful program,” NORD said. Registration for the “patient-centric” event is $39 for patients, caregivers, students, and NORD patient organization representatives. The cost is $75 for professional advocates, people from academia, physicians, and government representatives, and $500 for NORD corporate council members. For pharmaceutical, insurance, or other representatives, registration is $650. As for the agenda, the opening discussion will be on “The Patient-Professional Partnership” and will include three stories on the close bond between patients and their care professionals. Breakout sessions for Saturday, June 26 will include “Coping with Grief and Anticipatory Grief,” “Shared Decision-Making with Your Care Team,” and “Working While Rare” as first offerings, followed by “Getting Involved in Clinical Research: Finding and Preparing for Clinical Trials,” “Navigating Insurance, Social Security Disability and Patient Assistance Programs,” and “The ABCs of Advocating for Your Child’s Education” in the second group of workshops. Those will be followed by a plenary discussion on the topic “Building Resilience in a Time of Unknowns.” The speakers will explore how patients coped while waiting for a diagnosis, how they are faring while waiting for new treatments, and how they have kept it together during the pandemic. June 27 will start with an opening plenary discussion titled “The Rare Sibling Experience.” Here, three siblings of rare disease patients will share their experiences, including how they became advocates. Breakout sessions on this day will include “Fighting Back and Fighting Forward Through Advocacy,” “Palliative Care: Debunking the Myths,” “Rare in the Family: Navigating the Roles of Patient, Parent, and Caregiver” in the first set of discussion groups. Later offerings that Sunday will include “Aging with a Rare Condition,” “Finding Your Community and Building Your Support Network,” and “The Intersection of Race, Ethnicity, and Equity with Diagnosis and Treatment Access.” The closing plenary discussion, titled “Rare Breakthroughs Now and on the Horizon,” will cover the latest advances in the diagnosis, treatment, and care of rare diseases. Early this year, NORD put out a call out for individuals who were willing to share their real-life experiences with rare diseases at the conference. In all, including physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, the conference will feature some 55 speakers. Access to the virtual program will be provided via email the week of the event.
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