HRRS 23 in Brazil: Research, Collaboration, and Saudade-Learning Beyond the Research Seminar

By Anna Carolina Viduani, Tally Tafla, Melisa Pertica, Érica Bonganhi de Bern, Arul Velusamy

During the third week of September, the 9th Helmut Remschmidt Research Seminar (HRRS 23) was held in Campos do Jordão, São Paulo, Brazil. It united fifteen young researchers representing diverse nations around the globe and six mentors: MD. Anna Ordoñez, Prof. Bruno Falissard, Prof. Christina Schwenck, Dr. Lizzie Shephard, Prof. Maretha de Jonge, and Prof. Petrus de Vries—or, as we would like to call them, Anna, Bruno, Christina, Lizzie, Maretha, and Petrus. 

Our journey began with shy greetings at the airport. Little did we know that they would soon turn into long conversations, collaborative work, inspiring exchanges of life experiences, culminating in warm farewell embraces. The experience of meeting our colleagues from all around the world—Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, Lebanon, Serbia, Germany, South Africa, Lithuania, and India—was deeply enriching. It underscored the recognition that despite our diverse backgrounds, we share common values that transcend our differences in countless ways. 

HRRS 2023 – Attending lectures by mentors

As fellows, we could probably spend hours talking about everything new we learned about research. Sessions were organized in a well-planned manner with topics ranging from the academic journey of mentors to interactive sessions on writing abstracts, manuscripts, and proposals for research grants. Listening to the academic journey of our mentors was not only inspiring but also made us relate to the hard work and struggles faced by them in the early part of their career. Introducing the concept of implementation science is essential for all fellows from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds. Overview of biostatistics was taught in a practical way, allowing us to reflect on our projects and refine them. 

In the afternoons (after a generous lunch!), small group mentoring also provided amazing insights into different research projects led by our fellow mentees, under the careful guidance of the mentoring team. Small group mentoring sessions and the one-on-one discussions with mentors provided us with the opportunity to refine our plans, organize our goals, and gain clarity on what we have been doing well, what we could change or improve, and how to navigate our academic careers through small, gradual but persistent steps. The "Ask Us Anything" session,  was a valuable and engaging learning experience that gave us the opportunity to ask our mentors any questions we had. It was a fun-filled session that provided us with life lessons and insights that we will carry with us for years to come. 

HRRS 2023 - Group outing picture

HRRS 2023 - Group outing picture

However, HRRS is not just about science: it is about the people who do science. Through the generosity of the mentors, HRRS became something more, and the true lessons could be found outside of the classroom as well. As a true communal experience (and very aligned with Brazil’s Latin roots), they often came around the dining table, or during walks.

At the end of the week, HRRS was about our coming-of-age as researchers. We discovered our values and learned how to use them to guide our choices and paths in a flexible way. The focus of this week was also about adaptability and discovering how to be the best researchers for our context and our goals.

Amidst large amounts of small coffees, capybaras, and bem-te-vis, we are returning from this seminar knowing it was the experience of a lifetime. We are immensely grateful for the mentors for sharing their experiences, knowledge, and for bringing their vulnerability and welcoming ours. Borrowing from Winnicott’s work, we felt that the mentors provided us with holding: it enabled us to feel seen and nurtured our curiosity and will to keep on working to improve child and adolescent mental health around the world. Mentors were amazing in guiding our challenges in a positive direction and it’s an enlightening, life changing experience for many of us in planning our future career plans.

HRRS 2023 - Group outing picture

The HRRS ended, and left us filled with saudade, an untranslatable Brazilian Portuguese word. Saudade is something we have after meaningful meetings: it is about loss, love, and distance. We are now back at our sides of the world, our research labs and clinical practices; but are also sure that this experience was meaningful enough to have us feeling lots of saudades. The seminar was a true Brazilian Odyssey for learning child and adolescent mental health research beyond the seminar room, and an enlightening experience for all of the fellows.

Lastly, we would like to thank again the mentoring team - Anna, Bruno, Christina, Lizzie, Maretha, and Petrus - for all the aforementioned reasons; IACAPAP, the Institute of Psychiatry from the University of São Paulo, and the ADHD Program at Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre for providing us with the opportunity to meet; Érica, Pâmela, and the whole CCM team for taking care of all the details, even the smallest ones; and lastly Prof. Remschmidt, who founded and championed this esteemed fellowship program.