Tuesday 14 September 2021 11:49am
A primary healthcare symposium hosted by Otago Medical School was a success despite having to be hastily moved online because of the COVID‑19 lockdowns.
It was the second year in a row that the Primary Health Care, General Practice and Rural Health Research Symposium was disrupted after the COVID‑19 pandemic forced the postponement of the 2020 event.
With last year’s speakers rebooked and a full programme scheduled, the organisers were determined the 2021 conference, scheduled to be held in Invercargill, would go ahead online instead.
Head of the organising committee Dr Jim Ross said a survey was sent to participants who showed a strong preference for the conference to proceed in the different format.
“We rapidly got into gear and we managed to bring it off. We converted our wonderful in-person conference into a Zoom conference over the course of eight or nine days. And we were pretty proud of that.”
Scientific Programme lead Dr Katherine Hall took charge of shuffling the programme which was switched from the normal Saturday-Sunday format to Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.
“We didn't want to keep people on Zoom for too long so we had a pretty brisk programme and inserted some short breaks.”
The annual symposium is shared around sites in Otago, Canterbury, Wellington, Auckland and Waikato and a key aspect is networking. To partly account for this, the organisers created Zoom breakout rooms which were used after the E-poster presentations.
“We put the presenters of the posters in the breakout rooms and then people could go in and ask questions. That worked really well.”
The symposium, which had a strong focus on emerging researchers, had attracted more than 50 registrations. Very few pulled out, but 18 extra people registered for the Zoom version.
“There was a wide variety of different presentations. It's a very diverse area that we work in. Our impression was that everybody really enjoyed it, and we would have loved to have been together in person but it wasn't a bad substitute.”
Dr Ross paid tribute to the team who brought the conference together.
“It’s really important to acknowledge the core team. Lauralie Richard, the original conference chair; Katherine Hall, the Scientific Programme lead (with Lauralie also initial co-lead); Maria Larcombe, Adeel Akmal and Sharon Leitch the social programme organisers who became IT troubleshooters for the zoom; Jacqui Hadingham, the super-efficient overall administrator; Jane Reynolds from the Events Centre, who was crucial, especially in our short run up to the zoom event; eConferencing for advice, plus monitoring on the Friday. Others with important roles were Carol Atmore, Andrea Vickery and Meredith Walton.”