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.

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.



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.

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.

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.

 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.

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.




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