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Recent National Conferences

Hamilton 2016

Our 2016 AGM and Conference was held in Hamilton on Saturday 27 August 2016.

Our guest speaker was Dr. Emma Sandford MBChB, FRCOphth (UK).  Emma - Ophthalmologist, Herbal and Traditional Chinese Medicine enthusiast - discussed how we might use scientifically proven natural healing techniques in relation to managing our eyesight, with specific focus on RP and AMD.

Dieu Nguyen & Vildana Praljak (from Vision Australia) gave a client-focused overview of their interactive low vision workshop “Strength, Balance & Positive Thinking”. A unique workshop to explore the impact of vision loss on the body, particularly in relation to balance, posture, coordination, and general physical wellbeing.

This year some amendments to our Constitution were approved; you can download them here.

Wellington 2015

Our 2015 AGM and Conference was held in Wellington on Saturday 29 August at the Blind Foundation in Adelaide Road.  Around 40 people attended the AGM, with an additional 10 or so arriving later for the Conference sessions.

Our first Conference speaker was Genevieve McLachlan of Adaptive Technology Solutions, on the types of assessments available and the product range for people with low vision: electronic magnifiers, screen reading through magnification software, and combinations of text magnification and speech support.  She also touched on technologies to aid people with other conditions, e.g. computer games to help retrain the brain after injury or stroke.  Also noted were the Noel Leeming Service Support Centres, which offer training to anybody getting to grips with new tech items.

Rick Hoskin, Chair of the Blind Foundation Board of Directors, updated members on the 2015-2020 Strategic Plan, and the Foundation Engagement Roadshows.  In 2015 The Blind Foundation celebrated its 125th Anniversary, so we had a cake for him to cut to mark the occasion.

He was followed by Brian Hare (Head of Property, Currency and Security at the Reserve Bank) and Vivienne Saunders, Communications Manager for the launch of the new banknotes to be phased in from 12 October.  They outlined the development and production process for new notes, including engagement with vision-impaired groups on readability and colour.

After lunch Mary Fisher, Paralympian swimmer and member of the Blind Foundation since she was 6 weeks old, talked about her early training, swimming as a great equalizer for a teenager, qualifying or the London Paralympics, and what's the same/what's different for Paralympians; getting sponsorship is a tougher call. Mary is also learning to play the Mbira, an instrument with a wooden board and metal keys.

Andrew Black, optometrist and low vision expert, spoke on MD, genetic and eye environmental risk factors, treatments - with reference to Avastin and Eylea, and research into genetic therapy.  He also touched on the effect of using computer screens at night and blue light as a brain stimulator, affecting sleep patterns, and suitable lens coatings for filtering this out.  This was followed by a lively and wide-ranging discussion on the availability of low vision services, referral processes, and possible models for accessible services nationwide.

Tony Haas, a former President of Retina NZ, then spoke about his book Being Palangi, to be launched on 1 September.

Christchurch 2014

The 2014 National AGM and Conference was held in Christchurch on Saturday 6 September at The Blind Foundation Rooms in St Albans.  It opened at 10.30am with our AGM, which was followed by President Fraser Alexander's report on the Retina International Congress held in Paris in June 2014.

The International Congress commences with two days of patient sessions (the Continuous Education Day and the Retina International Assembly).  This is followed by the Scientific and Medical Programme.  52 countries were represented.

Fraser presented our bid to host the 2018 Congress in New Zealand.  Representatives from Ireland, the UK, the US, and South Africa spoke on progress with genetic eye research and testing initiatives.  Fraser's full report can be read in our November 2014 Newsletter.  The next World Congress is in Taiwan in 2016.

After our break for lunch, Dr Jim Borthwick spoke on Macular Degeneration, the latest research, and looking after our eyes, and Logan McMullan on journey through blindness.

We concluded at 3.00pm with afternoon tea and socialising - as always, a great chance to meet new members and catch up with old friends.

Auckland 2013

Our 2013 National AGM and Conference was held on Saturday 24 August at Awhina House in Parnell.  There was a great turn-out of members and associates.

The day started at 10.30am with our AGM, followed by lunch and a chance to socialise.

In the afternoon there were three presentations.

Carissa Sutherland, the inaugural recipient of the Ombler Trust/Retina NZ Summer Studentship, gave us an insight into how the studentship gave her valuable experience in researching in a medical context, critically evaluating current medical research, developing medical writing skills, and in benefiting from guidance from a medical and research professional.

Shireen Ali, low vision therapist, spoke about the RNZFB’s pilot programme “vision solutions”, and gave some daily living tips.  Shireen was joined by RNZFB Adaptive Communications Instructor, Leeanne Wojtowicz who spoke on negotiating your way around the digital world.

Dr Jo Sims (refractive cataract surgeon, medical retina and uveitis specialist) spoke on her professional experience. Jo currently runs the uveitis clinics for the Auckland region, based at Greenlane Clinical Centre, whilst providing tertiary care for complicated uveitis patients from across New Zealand. Jo also has fellowship training and expertise in the management of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy.

Jo has provided a medical retina service to the Cook Islands on an annual basis since 2002 and previously spent 3 months running a charitable eye clinic in rural India.

The Conference concluded at 3.00pm with snacks and drinks and another chance to socialise, meet our speakers, fellow Retina members, and our Executive Committee.

Retinal photographs on this website are courtesy of the New Zealand Association of Optometrists. Other photographs in our page headers are courtesy of the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health.