Symposium showcases advances in gynae oncology and honours retiring pioneer

The Royal Hospital for Women hosted the Professor Neville Hacker Symposium recently, in recognition of the valuable contribution made by Professor Hacker in the care of women with gynaecological cancer over the last 32 years.

The event drew over 150 attendees, to hear speakers from Australia and overseas discuss the achievements – and the challenges which remain – in the care of women with gynaecological cancer.

Opening the proceedings, Vanessa Madunic, General Manager, Royal Hospital for Women, said: “This is not an ordinary conference but a celebration of what committed men and women have achieved and can achieve for the benefit of women in past and future generations.”

In 1986, Professor Hacker accepted a position at the Royal Hospital for Women as an associate professor of gynaecological oncology within the University of NSW – and at the end of this year, he will be retiring.

Professor Hacker established the first multi-disciplinary cancer centre in Australia at The Royal, then in Paddington, in 1986. This holistic approach was the first of its kind in Australia and became the model of care for gynaecological cancer treatment for hospitals around Australia and beyond.

“Professor Hacker has certainly been a teacher to many as evidenced by his wall of Fellows fame in the gynaecological oncology centre. However, his teaching is not limited to The Royal as we see today with the number of local, national and international guests participating in this symposium,” Ms Madunic said.

“Professor Hacker recognises that he is privileged to be in his position so shares this privilege with those in developing countries, he invests in research to ensure that women are the beneficiaries of any new treatment or modality of care and he is there to teach – the junior consultant, the Fellow, the registrar, the resident, the nurse, the psychologist, the general manager – and us here today.”

Delegates heard from 14 speakers who addressed themes including major discoveries in translational research, improving ovarian cancer detection and the future of gynaecological cancer surgery. Speakers included: Emeritus Professor Ron Jones (New Zealand), Associate Professor Michael Campion (Australia), Professor Annabelle Farnsworth (Australia), Professor Jonathan Berek (United States), Dr Rhonda Farrell (Australia), Professor Fred Kridelka (Belgium), Professor Paul Speiser (Austria), Associate Professor Rob Rome (Australia), Professor Viola Heinzelmann Schwarz (Switzerland), Dr Ko van der Velden (Netherlands), Associate Professor Jim Nicklin (Australia) and Dr Chibuike Chigbu (Nigeria).

Rosalind Robertson, psychologist at The Royal’s Gynaecological Centre presented: ‘Caring for the whole patient: the science of psychosocial care’, while Ellen Barlow, Clinical Nurse Consultant at the centre, delivered: ’32 years of vulvar cancer management at The Royal: in expert hands’.

A patient of Professor Hacker, Liz Cotter, a documentary photographer, curated a small exhibition of her work for the symposium's attendees to view. The photos on display are part of a series taken over a two-year period, of women undergoing the patient journey at The Royal's Gynaecological Cancer Centre.

The event was concluded by gynaecological oncologist Dr Greg Robertson, before guests attended a symposium dinner.

(Pic: Professor Neville Hacker with felllows who attended the symposium) 

Group of people on stairway