As all our conference speakers make their biographies and photos available they will be published here for your interest.



Norm Hewitt

Norm Hewitt is a former New Zealand Maori Rugby team captain, All Black, and motivational speaker on sport, the community and personal fulfilment. Not to mention the winner of the inaugural "Dancing With the Stars".

Norm Hewitt is a remarkable man. Softly spoken he embodies all things rugged and male but has earned an entirely different reputation since winning Dancing With the Stars with partner Carol-Ann Hickmore in 2005. 

Now Norm is a mentor to youth and an ambassador for many charitable organisations. But it wasn't always that way. Norm is a former New Zealand Maori Rugby team captain and All Black. In a long career from 1988 to 2001, he was a frequently a controversial and outspoken figure. However, his significance to New Zealand rugby as a player should not be underestimated. Norm was at his best a dynamic hooker effective both in the tight and in the loose.

Ross Lawrenson

Ross trained as a general practitioner in the UK and has worked in rural general practice before working for the Waikato Area Health Board where he managed community health services and rural hospitals.   In 1995 he took up a senior lecturer role in public health at the Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School (later Imperial College).   He then moved to the University of Surrey where he was a Dean of Medicine and Head of the Postgraduate Medical School.  

For the last 11 years he has been the Professor of Primary Care and Assistant Dean of the Waikato Clinical Campus, University of Auckland before taking up his current role of Professor of Population Health at the University of Waikato and Clinical Director, Strategy and Funding for Waikato District Health Board.  Ross has an interest in rural health research and health workforce strategy.

Among other things Ross is a member of the Midland Cancer Network Executive, a member of the Ministry's Taskforce on Prostate Cancer and Chairs their Primary Care subgroup.  He is also a member of the Ministry of Health Cancer Health Information Strategy Governance Board and previously Chair of the National Screening Advisory Committee.   

Garry Nixon

Dr Garry Nixon has worked as a Rural Generalist at Dunstan Hospital in Central Otago since 1991.  He is a rotational supervisor for registrars at the hospital. He is a Senior Lecturer in Rural Health with the University of Otago, Director of the Dunedin School of Medicine's Rural Postgraduate Programme and Chair of the Division of Health Sciences Rural Working Party. He chaired the working party that lead to the recognition of rural hospital medicine as a new scope of practice and was the first chair of the RNZCGP Division of Rural Hospital Medicine.  He is a member of the RNZCGP's Education Advisory Group.

Marnie Prickett

Marnie Prickett is an organiser and spokesperson for Choose Clean Water, a campaign aiming to strengthening New Zealand's fresh water legislation in order to protect human, wildlife and environmental health. Choose Clean Water, supported by the Tourism Export Council, Freshwater for Life, Freshwater Foundation, documented the stories of New Zealanders experiencing the consequences of polluted fresh water and the devastating degradation of lakes, rivers and streams. Short films of ordinary kiwis from all walks of life personalised the mounting national water quality crisis. The campaign gained wide popular support and led to a 13,000-signature petition, calling for the bottom line for waterways to be raised from "wadeable" to swimmable, being presented to three major parties at Parliament. Marnie's background is in environmental education and horticulture. She has returned to university to complete studies in Agricultural Science and is dedicated to seeing New Zealand become an international leader in freshwater protection and management.

Robyn Toomath  

While genes certainly play a part, Toomath argues, more people are fat than ever before because most of us consume significantly more calories than we did 30 years ago. But why?

The answer, she asserts, is the commodification of food created by junk food advertising coupled with urbanization, globalization, and trade agreements. And while government, advertisers, gyms, and the weight loss industry keep pushing solutions that science shows do not work-from extreme exercise regimens and fad dieting to expensive surgeries, pills, and misguided education campaigns-Toomath outlines what just might make a difference in terms of helping people truly control their weight.

Drawing on the latest research and her twenty years of working with overweight patients,Dr. Toomath argues that even strongly determined people who are offered appealing incentives typically cannot lose weight permanently. Instead of demonizing people by treating weight as an issue of personal or even moral responsibility, Dr. Toomath makes it clear that nothing will change until we make it easy, not all but impossible, for people to eat healthily. Raising important questions about obesity, Toomath sidesteps the standard sound bites and puts an end to the myth of personal responsibility for body size by focusing on the environment all around us.



Paula Anderson

Paula has been a VIP Coordinator with Northland District Health Board for 3 years. Is a Registered Nurse with a background in emergency nursing both in New Zealand and overseas. 
Geoff Annals

Geoff has been a Director of Accuro since 2002. He retired as Board Chair to take up the role of Chief Executive in September 2013.

Geoff has more than 30 years' experience in the health sector. He began as a registered nurse at Waikato Hospital where he worked in a range of clinical and nursing and general management positions for 20 years. He was General Manager of Waikato Hospital prior to his appointment as Chief Executive of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation in 2001, the position he held until his current appointment with Accuro.

Geoff has had a number of national and international health policy and health service development roles and is a graduate of Waikato Institute of Technology and Waikato University.
Annette Beautrais

Dr Annette Beautrais is Adjunct Professor at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, and Suicide Prevention Co-ordinator at the South Canterbury DHB. 
Annette has worked in suicide research and prevention for the last 25 years, in New Zealand and internationally. Last year she conducted more than 50 workshops on suicide prevention for health providers throughout New Zealand as part of the  government's emergency response to the Global Dairy Crisis. 
Bryan Betty

Bryan is Deputy Medical Director at PHARMAC. He is also a practicing General Practitioner in Cannons Creek East Porirua.

David Bratt

Dr David Bratt is first and foremost a General Practitioner who spent 30 years in front-line general practice enjoying the delivery of individual face-to-face health services. In 2002 a new opportunity presented itself to improve patients' access to specialist secondary services and close the gap in the primary/secondary interface with his appointment to the new position of GP Liaison and Primary Care Advisor to Capital and Coast DHB. This exposure to a large multilayered organisation required a whole new set of skills and an understanding of the relatively slow pace of change possible compared to a typical small business general practice. A further leap into the unknown occurred in 2007 with his appointment to the new position of Principal Health Advisor to the Ministry of Social Development. This is General Practice at a systems level – working with a population around the wider social determinants of health – employment, income, housing, education, and access to health services. In this position he had to opportunity to work on collecting together the substantial body of evidence on the health benefits of work, and the significant adverse health outcomes of worklessness.

Anna Charles-Jones

Anna is a newly qualified doctor working in Nelson. She has previously completed a Bachelor of Science in Genetics. She is passionate about rural medicine and building strong communities. Most recently she was awarded the Pat Farry Rural Health Trust traveling scholarship and spent time working in the Orkney Isles in Northern Scotland as a final year medical student. 
Andrew Connolly

Appointed to Council in November 2009, Mr Connolly was elected Deputy Chairperson of Council in February 2012 and Chairperson in February 2014. Mr Connolly was re-elected to this position in February 2016.
Mr Connolly is a general and colorectal surgeon, employed full-time at Counties Manukau District Health Board.

He has a strong interest in governance, education, and clinical leadership and has been the Head of Department of General and Vascular Surgery since 2003. He has served on the Ministerial advisory group that was responsible for the In Good Hands document. In 2016, he has also served on the Ministry of Health Capability and Capacity Review of the Health Sector. 

Mr Connolly has served on various national committees, including the New Zealand Guidelines Group for the screening of patients with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

He has previously held the role of Presiding Member of the Lotteries Health Research Distribution Committee, he recently chaired a Ministerial review of the impact of the elective waiting times policy, and he was a member of the review panel of the New Zealand Cancer Registry.
Outside of Medicine, he has a passion for military history, particularly the First World War.

Mr Connolly as Council Chairperson is an ex-offico member of Council's Audit, education and Health Committees.

Fraser Hamilton

Fraser Hamilton is a General Practitioner in Hamilton, works as a Medical Officer for the Cardiology Clinical Trials Unit at Waikato Hospital and since July 2014 has been the GP Champion for the Heart Foundation.
 Laura Hancock

My philosophy is: "Improvement through Movement."

I have a real passion for biomechanics and movement, sport, fitness and wellbeing as an integrated system. I have an unrequited enthusiasm for the positive benefits which physical exercise, and particularly outdoor exercise, utilising the environment, can have upon people from every walk of life.

The overwhelming effects that exercise and a healthy way of life can have in improving positive attitudes to life and to general health and wellbeing is a subject matter which I am particularly enthusiastic about.  Exercise is the miracle cure we've always had, but busy modern lifestyles mean that people neglect to take their recommended dose!

I emphatically back the thought process that:"If exercise were a pill, it would be one of the most cost-effective drugs ever invented" (Dr Nick Cavill, a health promotion consultant in UK).

I specialise in providing Movement, Mechanics and Performance Coaching for Shearers, Farmers and Equestrian Athletes. I am whole-heartedly enthusiastic in promoting the huge benefits that a combined approach of sports and remedial massage therapy, remedial exercise, pilates and personal training can have upon those in any walk of life.   Though I believe a key factor to providing top class and effective care for those within our rural industries and sports is for our practitioners and health care providers to understand the physical requirements and biomechanics of these industries. They can then further educate their clients and patients in how to look after themselves and improve their own health and wellbeing, whilst being additionally supported by our health care system.

Qualified in Specialist Biomechanics Coaching, Sports and Remedial Massage Therapy, Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Massage, Personal Training specialising in exercise referral and lower back pain, Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, Studio Pilates and Explaining Pain I can apply a multi-dimensional and diverse approach to any client, and tailor their care specific to their own individual issues, sport or job, whilst focusing upon personal education and empowerment alongside treatment and training.

Anders Henriksson 

Anders is a Principal Application Specialist at DuPont Nutrition and Health in Australia, from where he is supporting DuPont products and research projects in the area of Dietary Supplements and Fresh fermented Dairy throughout the Asia Pacific region and India.

Anders joined Danisco in 2008, as a Senior Scientist based in Singapore, where he led several development projects related to culture formulations for dairy and dietary supplement products. Prior to that, Anders held positions as scientist and senior scientist with a major international food ingredients business, based in Australia, where he was involved in culture development and pre-clinical and clinical studies on probiotics and prebiotics. 

Anders graduated with a PhD in Microbiology from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden in 1993, and proceeded with post-doctoral research at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, in the field of gastrointestinal microbiology, probiotics and prebiotics.

Geoff Herd

Geoff Herd is a registered medical laboratory scientist with over 30 year's experience in medical laboratories including 10 years in operations management, medical laboratory accreditation and eight years in point-of-care testing. He was convenor of the New Zealand Medical Laboratory Science Transfusion Science Special Interest Group from 1996 to 2007 and was co-convenor of the New Zealand Point-of-Care Testing Advisory Group from its inception in 2009 until 2015. He has presented many presentations on POCT and his experience in Northland, New Zealand and overseas has strengthened his belief that POCT has an essential and cost-effective role for improving clinical decision cycle times in rural hospitals and clinics and also for improving equity of access and outcomes.

Rhonda Johnson

Initially worked in Operating Theatres and ICU in Auckland, Melbourne and Edinburgh.  Settled in Central Otago and commenced the role of Charge Nurse in Dunstan Hospital's rural acute medical ward in July 2005.  Completed a PG Cert in Intensive Care Nursing at La Trobe University, Melbourne while working at The Alfred Hospital ICU.  Further study through the Rural Institute of NZ and the University of Auckland lead to a PG Dip in Advanced Nursing in 2009.  Juggles an 0.8FTE as Charge Nurse together with being a Mum to 3 young boys. 
Dr Zarko Kamenica

Dr Zarko Kamenica is a Psychiatrist and has lived in New Zealand since 1995.  He is a former Clinical Director and Director of Area Mental Health for Wairarapa and has been with MPS since 2013.

 Akash Kota

After graduating dentistry in 2015 from the University of Otago I find myself practicing dentistry in the bustling metropolis of Masterton, at Masterton Dental Clinic, based in the Wairarapa region. I love practicing all fields of dentistry including dental emergencies, rehabilitation, cosmetics and minor oral surgery. I did not get very far from home as I grew up right here in Wellington. 
Debi Lawry

I have worked in the health sector, as a registered nurse for 40 years. My career has taken me from specialisation to generalisation. I spent many years working in Neonatal Intensive Care Units at National Womens Hospital and Middlemore Hospitals. During this time I moved away from hands on care in the incubator to other roles which included Clinical Nurse Educator, Charge Nurse and Clinical Nurse Consultant. All these roles involved supporting nurses to provide excellence in clinical care.

Fifteen years ago I left Auckland and moved to Dunedin to take up a role as Nurse Director at Dunedin Hospital. This professional leadership role covered clinical areas such as Child and Women's Health, Public Health, General and Specialist Surgery, Intensive Care and Theatres and Emergency Department. 

The breadth of this experience prepared me for my current role as Nursing Services Manager at Dunstan Hospital in Central Otago. I continue to support nurses in every way I can, so they can have the skills, knowledge and resource to provide the best care possible for our patients, and to work collaboratively with our colleagues to achieve the health outcomes that our community deserve.
Dr Simon McDowell 

Simon is one of a handful of practitioners in New Zealand who is a formally qualified fertility sub-specialist (CREI) - he manages patients with fertility issues at Fertility Associates in Wellington and also holds a regular fertility clinic in Gisborne. Simon's care focuses on preserving a woman's fertility when diseases such as endometriosis and fibroids are impacting. Fertility treatment can appear complex and Simon works hard to make the confusing world of infertility easier to understand.

Simon is one of the first surgeons in New Zealand to be awarded a Australasian Gynaecological Endoscopy Surgery (AGES) Fellowship in advanced laparoscopic surgery - focusing on the minimally invasive management of endometriosis, hysterectomy, fibroids and ovarian cysts he also sees gynaecology patients at Wakefield Hospital.

Simon also holds a public consulting role at Wellington Women's Hospital.  He is dedicated to teaching and is the current training supervisor for O&G trainees.  He is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Otago.  Simon is widely published in medical journals and has research projects ongoing.

Finally Simon is easygoing, honest and caring, and prides himself on working hard for his patients and achieving the best possible outcome.  Outside of work Simon enjoys running and hockey but particular attention is put into time with his young family and friends.

Jono Paulin

Jono is a newly qualified doctor working in Nelson. He has previously completed a bachelors degree in Physical Education (Otago) and a Masters in Exercise Physiology (Northeastern, MA, USA). Most recently he was awarded the Pat Farry Rural Health Trust traveling scholarship and spent time working in the Orkney Isles in Northern Scotland.
 Dr James Renwick

James has over 30 years' experience in weather and climate research. His main field is large-scale climate dynamics and his current interests include Southern Hemisphere climate variability (such as the El Niño/La Niña cycle and the mid-latitude westerly winds) and the impacts of climate variability and change on New Zealand and the Antarctic. James was a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report, in Working Group I (physical science), and was also a lead author for the 4th Assessment Report published in 2007. He is a member of the World Climate Research Programme Joint Scientific Committee, and was the chair of the Royal Society of New Zealand Climate Expert Panel.

Tristan Sames
Tristan is an Intensive Care Paramedic and Clinical Support Officer with St John, based in Dunedin, and is an Advanced Wilderness Life Support Instructor.  He is a fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine, and is a former member of the ambulance Specialist Emergency Response Team in Auckland.  He holds Bachelors degrees in Paramedicine and Psychology, as well as post-graduate qualifications in Business Administration and Emergency Management.  He is currently a third-year medical student at the University of Otago.

Sue Stewart 

With a doctor in my household I understand that finding time to concentrate on planning for anything, let alone retirement that seems a long way off, is a tough ask.  However, the satisfaction gained from feeling in control, and the long term benefits are immeasurable.  With a Plan you are able to make better financial decisions and therefore ensure your current strong income flows maximise your future retirement position.
Jen Thomas

I have worked for Northland District Health Board for the last 23 years and worked in rural health. I am a Registered nurse and currently manage two rural hospitals, Dargaville and Bay of Islands Hospital.  I am very passionate about the wellness of our community and have enjoyed implementing the Violence Intervention Programme into our day to day work.
Dr Maree Todd

Dr Maree Todd is a Geriatrician who works a day a week for Bupa  which provides residential care to over 4000 residents in 60 Care Homes throughout New Zealand. The rest of her time is spent at Auckland Hospital  as a geriatrician and service lead. Her interests are in improving the care in residential care, frailty, dementia, elder abuse and protection of the rights of older people. She is the Chair of the HOPE Foundation for research in ageing. Claims for rural "expertise" come from growing up in Mokoia, family in Ahuroa, past experience as visiting Geriatrician to the Hokianga and the Bupa Rural Homes.

Celia Tymons

Celia accidentally began working in General Practice in 2007 whilst living in Hanmer Springs, and it was here that she developed a passion for helping teams deliver quality health care to the community. In 2011 she moved to the West Coast and worked as a Practice Manager at the South Westland Area Practice based at Franz Josef. 

While working with the likes of Dr Janne Bills and Dr Martin London, plus an amazing team of Rural Nurse Specialists over 9 years, Celia realised how committed she is about improving the service, quality, and sustainability of Rural General Practice.

Now living in rural inland Canterbury, Celia delivers support to numerous rural practices all over NZ through her practice management consultant role with GPDocs. In her work, she helps to improve and streamline operational, policy, and procedural aspects at practices. And it's become clear that practices (both rural or urban) need all the help they can get in an industry that is becoming more stretched, less resourced, and –most would argue – needed more than ever.

Jenny Visser

Jenny is Senior Lecturer in Travel Medicine in the Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice, University of Otago, Wellington. She teaches and convenes the University's postgraduate qualifications in Travel Medicine enjoying the stimulation that teaching brings. She also works part time in clinical travel medicine at The Travel Doctor in Wellington. Jenny's background is in general practice having then specialised in travel medicine. She has worked in many roles and places, including being a full time general practitioner in Wellington for 12 years, medical advisor to New Zealand Land Search and Rescue, medical officer on the research vessel Tangaroa (spending five summers in Antarctica), a season as a volunteer doctor at a high altitude rescue post in Machermo, Nepal and two months on set in a remote village in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea as film crew doctor. 




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