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The doctor will see you now: First Zoom-free conferences mark end of Covid coma


As states vie to become the nation’s disease control headquarters, two new medical training centres have been unveiled and medical sector conferences have returned to spearhead a rush to Queensland as the industry awakens from its “Covid coma”.

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More than 80 of Australia and New Zealand’s leading interventional neuro-radiologists, along with key United States experts, converged on the Gold Coast Friday for NeuroExchange to discuss the latest in treatments for stroke and brain aneurysms.

It is one of the first Zoom-less medical conferences to be held globally, marking the return of in-person medical meetings and a re-mobilisation of the sector, despite continuing Covid-19 concerns.

A further six medical conferences, attracting more than 4,600 delegates, are already scheduled for 2022-23 on the Gold Coast alone.

Major international conferences were worth almost $36 billion to the Australian economy pre-pandemic. Medical and scientific conferences, which make up 50 per cent of business meetings globally, are the most valuable sector economically for business events.

Before Covid, business events contributed $570 million to the Gold Coast economy.

Destination Gold Coast’s Head of Business Events Selina Sinclair said Australia’s health and medical industry had grown considerably over the past decade and was internationally recognised for world-leading technology, innovation, advanced research, and the nation’s robust health system.

Queensland’s health and medical research centres and regions with a thriving education economy were firmly at the epicentre of the global radar for the returning conferences, she said.

“Events such as NeuroExchange continue to grow our credentials, evolve our intellectual capabilities and knowledge networks and create lasting legacies for the city,” Sinclair said.

“Beyond the direct economic contribution these business events inject into the Gold Coast economy, they also lead to new partnerships and attract talent to our hospitals, universities, and research institutes.”

The charge of medical and scientific conferences to Queensland is a significant change to the pre-Covid era.

The Queensland Tourism Industry Reference Panel’s report called ‘Towards 2032: Reshaping Queensland’s visitor economy to welcome the world,’ that was released in June, found that before Covid, Queensland hosted only about 16 per cent of Australia’s business events and 18 per cent of delegates – well below interstate rivals in NSW and Victoria.

However, with lucrative medical conferences leading the charge after the Covid shutdowns, the state’s business events strategy meant Queensland was aligning its industry and research strengths to secure events looking for new destinations.

The return of the medical and science conferences comes as two major new medical training centres were unveiled on the Gold Coast.

Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics today launched an Australian-first centre dedicated to deciphering the cancer glyco-code.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) International Centre for Cancer Glycomics will enable the Institute’s researchers to identify changes to carbohydrates and sugars and their interactions with proteins and lipids in a number of cancers.

“Our research will provide major advances in the early diagnosis of significant cancers, including skin, ovarian and breast cancer,” Institute for Glycomics Director, Professor Mark von Itzstein said.

“This unique facility, with its diverse and multi-disciplinary team of researchers, will underpin the opportunity to better understand the glyco-code and lead to the translation of novel discoveries and clinical outcomes that will improve the lives of countless cancer sufferers around the world.”

A new world-class training centre for image-guided surgeries is also preparing to open within the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct.

Director of Interventional Neuroradiology at Gold Coast University Hospital Dr Hal Rice, in partnership with Medtronic, one of the world’s largest medical technology companies, said a world-class new training centre would be launched off the back of the NeuroExchange conference.

“Our vision is to train specialist physicians from all over the Asia-Pacific in the latest techniques in a dedicated facility, building on the training we’ve conducted over the last eight years within the hospital, with the latest equipment and space to accommodate larger groups,” Rice said.

“Medtronic will be a key partner in terms of bringing Asia-Pacific physicians here for this specialised training and for cutting-edge technology development to continually improve minimally-invasive, life-saving treatments for stroke and brain aneurysms.”

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