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May 2003 - The Spy who came in from the Tropics!

The ASM is over and life has returned to normal - will it ever really be the same again? I had an incredibly stimulating time but it was nice to be able to relax and just soak up the ideas. Chris Nathan is constantly looking for "calm him down" pills! I had an electric afternoon with Kustas while in Adelaide. Kustas felt at the start of our meeting that a 30% increase in web-site workload over the next year was excessive as the site is getting smarter. By the time I left him we had a page of challenges for the next 12 months and he was convinced that a 30% increase in workload was probably conservative! We have a lot of new things planned but don't know how we will implement many of them - we know it can be done though! Watch this space!

Rather than give an "elder statesman" view of the meeting I asked three members to contribute their thoughts on the Adelaide meeting. This month it gives me great pleasure to present three different perspectives on the 2003 meeting in Adelaide. I invited Lauren, Rob and the newly appointed "l'agent provocateur" to present their slants on the meeting from the first time presenter, Board member and social points of view respectively. They all willingly accepted their challenges and I am sure you will find their reflections interesting, if not amusing.

'til next month,

Kevin

May 2003

kevin.gain@health.wa.gov.au

The trials and tribulations of a first time presenter.

The stresses for a first time presenter begin with the decision to submit an abstract. That single little decision sharpens one's appreciation of how little one knows and how inexperienced one is. To believe that more than half the members of your audience have a better grip on your topic than you do is probably the most unsettling thing of all.

The preparatory stage is not too bad, so long as you have a mentor to guide you in the right direction. Writing up an abstract for the first time is a somewhat interesting experience especially when you have two or more authors, each with their own and very different writing skills. At the end of the day it is amazing how many different ways you can write the same sentence and the number of words you can remove when you have to - even from the abridged version!

Once the abstract was submitted I thought I would be able to relax a little. How wrong can you be? My next concern was the poster itself. Being relatively new on the scene, I had limited experience as to which posters stand out like 'STOP' signs and which posters blur into their surroundings. The impact of a neat, clear and bold poster does much to attract the eye. I had prepared my poster on panels and I was a little disappointed when I saw that most other presenters had gone the 'whole-hog' and chosen the flash, one-pager option. From the floor of my exercise laboratory back in Christchurch, my poster had appeared much more stunning than it did when lined up against the pros. I'll have to splash out next year!

Just before the formal poster presentation I was surprised I was not too nervous. What better audience could I have asked for? The support and encouragement from fellow scientists was wonderful. Suddenly the peace was shattered and the jitters began when a microphone was thrust into my hands and I realised that I had no idea how loudly I was speaking. Thanks to Kevin, who at the end of my presentation told me how natural I was with the microphone and that he could see me in a department store advertising special deals. Surely he could have picked a slightly more exciting job for me?

I've come away from this experience with a few more tricks up my sleeve for future presentations. The best way to become a better presenter is to watch as many other presentations as possible and to note what works and what doesn't - and then to practice it! There's not a great deal you can do about the nerves but if you're well prepared and believe in what you're talking about, most members of the audience will not even notice the trembling hands and voice! Stressful as the journey was, it was very rewarding and I will be doing it again.

Lauren Wallace, CRFS.

The ASM from a Board Rep's perspective

I don't know how Kevin does this every month. I guess deadlines are the best incentive to completing any task, as are the 'gentle' reminders from Kevin.

As a Board member, what did I think about the recent Adelaide ASM? I know this sounds like a cliché, but I always enjoy the meeting, as it is a great opportunity to meet our fellow scientists. The problem I have is that I may remember a face, but I don't always remember what everyone's name is, so I am a little hesitant starting conversations with people. I apologise if I didn't come up to everyone and say hello. The amazing thing I found during the meeting, though, was that there are a lot of other people out there that feel the same way!

As for the Board, it was good to see a lot of new and young faces. I've only been able to personally attend 2 board meetings in the 2½ years I've represented WA, so I still feel like the young boy on the block. Being a member of the Board has meant a little more responsibility though. I'm on several other committees, other than the ANZSRS, and while meetings can be tedious at times, I must congratulate the ANZSRS as the board meetings and AGM's I've attended have all run smoothly. We can be grateful that there are no prima donna's in our Society, or at least none that I've come across. We all get along with each other and are willing to contribute.

That is one of the things I admire most about our Society. We are willing to help each other. That was evident from the Adelaide meeting where there were 3 posters that presented results from surveys sent out to members. While there may not have been a response from everyone surveyed, there was also no feeling of 'ownership' of the information presented. Not only that, almost everyone I spoke too came away from the meeting with questions and ideas for next year. And we do need to question our procedures, and ourselves, from time to time. The annual ASM is an ideal time to meet and question whether we are doing the things the right or best way. There's no point doing the same thing over and over just because that's how it was done in the past, especially as procedures are continually changing as new technology is made available. I have been guilty of this myself, but I'm slowly coming around with a little prodding from my fellow scientist's.

With each meeting, I feel that the bar is being lifted and that we are increasingly challenging ourselves even more to question our procedures, to look at and embrace new technology, to improve the quality of our work and to present it in a scientific arena for peer review. It's a pity that the ASM is only 2 days long. I'm sure we could benefit even more if we extend the meeting over another day (say all day Friday?).

Finally, thanks to the ANZSRS for the travel grant so that I could attend the Adelaide meeting, and I look forward to seeing you all again in Sydney next year, and, more importantly, in Perth in 2005.

Rob Tagliaferri

THE MISSION

In a shroud of great mystery and intrigue, a top secret position was created within the ANZSRS hierarchy ….. A dashing young blonde Respiratory Scientist with a knack for creating trouble and a passion for platform shoes (which earned her the nickname 'Respiratory Spice'), was headhunted for the job. Her mission, which she chose to accept, was to socialise with her fellow Respiratory Scientists and to divulge the unofficial goings on at their annual gathering. She was a respectable lung function lab worker by day, but transformed herself into the Society's first Secret Agent, 'Agent Provocateur', by night.

4th APRIL - THE WELCOME RECEPTION

I turned up fashionably late (i.e. when all the food, drink and most of the people had gone). Of those who remained, most appeared to be in a jovial state. I was in my undercover attire, wearing a top emblazoned, "Warning! Too hot to handle". Unfortunately not everyone heeded the warning and several male scientists needed to be rushed to hospital for emergency burn treatment.

LATER THAT NIGHT

Most of the buoyant ones crossed the street to the pub to continue socialising, with the notable exception of two. 1. Kevin Gain, website guru, who refused my invitation on the grounds that he couldn't cope with me and alcohol at the same time (fair comment) and 2. Kiwi, Josh Stanton, who, even after being forced across the street as part of a running maul, preferred to get an early night … although, he well and truly made up for it the following evening.

In the pub I schmoozed with plenty of new blood, including a member who was the spitting image of Brad Pitt (although someone else thought he looked more like Rick off 'The Bold and the Beautiful'). I also had a chat with Bruce Thompson who informed me he had been trying to grow a beard since Christmas. I'm sure I speak for everyone when I wish him all the best with that endeavour.

5th APRIL - THE CONFERENCE DINNER

The dinner was the first chance the immediate-past executive had to let their hair down, and boy were they relishing their new-found freedom. I'd never seen Mike Brown so animated - he really stood out from the mounted animals on display.

My night was taken up passing notes between tables. I had been recruited by none other than the stylish sunglass-wearing Jenny Savage (QLD), to keep her up-to-date on the AFL game being played in Adelaide between the Lions and the Crows. (I had a contact on 'the inside' who fed me the latest scores.) All I'll say, is the outcome was a 'roaring' success.

Apart from a game of musical chairs which got quite out-of-hand towards the end, a few other childish antics were indulged, including a past president from Christchurch using her napkin as a party hat (I have photographic evidence).

LATER THAT SAME NIGHT

A large group of the younger conference goers decided to hit the nightspots with a couple of oldies (Maureen Swanney and Paul Guy) in tow. Local boy Derek Figurski threw himself into oncoming traffic to allow the party to cross the road to a bar. Everyone seemed to be cheering us on, as many cars started honking their horns and waving and yelling loudly. The way Derek controlled that traffic, I can only imagine how commanding he is when instructing a patient to perform a forced expiratory manoeuvre - it makes me wheeze just thinking about it.

While I was working the crowd in the bar, I happened upon a young man who was attending the conference for the first time. I was very concerned at the tightness of his clothes and after conferring with a few other scientists, a classic case of extrathoracic restriction was confirmed.

6TH APRIL - POST CONFERENCE

Some daring souls, namely Josh Stanton, Lauren Wallace, Brenton Eckert and Mike Brown, under the watchful guidance of local boy Derek, bravely tasted 'The Floatie', an Adelaide delicacy. It was a sputum green colour, very unappealing to the eye, and looked more like something out of an infected set of lungs. The brave foursome ate most of their floaties but I couldn't quite make out whether the bodily sounds which followed were part of the normal digestive process or flat out rejection of the food. (Aside: Apparently on the Friday night, a female society member from queensland developed a new dance move called the 'Floatie Flop' which involved incurring seriously bodily harm while carrying a floatie.)

On a more daring note, current Mouthpiece Editor, Cecilia Arrigoni, was seen out in public wearing a rather revealing fishnetty-type top. She had skilfully tried to hide it under a cardigan but it raised the question, what were her plans for the evening?

Later that same night, immediate past treasurer Andrew Coates was seen riding in a limousine with three mysterious women. Where were they going? And where did the money come from to pay for it?

EPILOGUE

On returning to Queensland after the conference, a series of mysterious accidents befell me. One particularly nasty one involving platform shoes and a dramatic fall resulted in hospitalisation, stitches and a humungous haematoma on my right buttock. It was all a bit suspicious and made me wonder whether someone in the Society was trying to stop 'The Truth' from getting out ….. or perhaps I was paying my penance for exposing the antics which transpired in Adelaide.

NOTE: No names have been changed to protect anyone's identity.

l'Agent Provocateur

 

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