An account of the Really Really Great Russell Conference

College news

Ninety GPs attended the iconic Really Really Great Russell Conference last week (20 - 21 May), a repeat of the winning formula Northland Faculty has created for local members to enjoy professional development sessions and each other’s company in the beautiful, historic setting of the Duke of Marlborough Hotel. 

In the ornate conference room, hung with dozens of gilt-framed, black and white photos of old Russell, dimly-lit by chandeliers, and featuring a distractingly lovely view over the bay, discussions turned to the latest information on spotting sickness in children, immunotherapy in oncology, suicide prevention, microbes, CLL, the structure of the health service, inflammatory airways disorders, imaging in abdominal pain, and cancer screening.

Most of the GPs attending were locals, but the speakers came from far and wide. They included Professor Paul Middleton, from Sydney, who spoke on sick children and the related differences in physiology between children and adults. Paul also took on the perennial challenge of the after-lunch session, successfully energising everyone with his very entertaining and insightful personal take on how to rebuild the health system – upside down. 

Professor Jeffrey Garrett from Counties Manukau, and Professor Annette Beautrais from Christchurch complemented the visiting speaker line-up with their respective takes on a new paradigm in the management of inflammatory airways disorders, and suicide prevention.

Talented local speakers were: Northland microbiologist Dr David Hammer, who talked about ‘things that bug him’; Dr Vanessa Blair, who covered imaging in abdominal pain, plus a fascinating outlook on how, as cancer screening techniques advance, they can result in overdiagnosis and overtreatment; Dr Sarah Poplar, who updated delegates on what the future holds for CLL; and Lisa Dawson, on immunotherapy – a new era in oncology.

At the evening dinner held on the covered outdoor balcony, there was a gentle roar of amicable conversation, partly caused by attendees being plied with excellent wines by Antonio Pasquale, a local winemaker who spoke engagingly about his trade, and made everyone taste each variety of his Kurow Village and organic Black Star wines.

The conference was family-friendly: several GPs brought their families with them, and it was great to see partners and children coming in to see Dad or Mum after the sessions finished to spend time with them, after enjoying the sights of Russell. One GP kept her baby at her side through all the sessions, and fielded compliments about how laid back he was.

The Northland Faculty Committee, chaired by Kerikeri GP Chris Reid, organises this conference each year, with the sterling core team of Tanya Quin, Kyle Eggleton, and Lynette Southwick. They have done an excellent job of creating a conference to remember every year for members, and we look forward to seeing what superlatives can be added to the name next year.