It is a great honour, and with such pleasure, that I take on the presidency of ASSBI. In so doing, I thank my predecessor, Professor Jacinta Douglas, under whose sage stewardship the Society has flourished. She has also been a wonderful role model while I wore my ‘training wheels’ during my two-year term as president-elect of ASSBI.
Let me introduce myself: I initially worked in clinical practice as a clinical neuropsychologist at Lidcombe Hospital in Sydney for 15 years, before moving to the University of Sydney where I held academic appointments; first, in the Department of Psychology for 7 years and subsequently in the Faculty of Medicine at the John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research for the past 20 years. I have been a member of ASSBI since its inception in the 1970’s, and together with Jacinta Douglas, was founding co-editor of the Society’s journal, Brain Impairment, for 16 years.
Thinking about the early days of ASSBI, I still vividly remember attending the very first two-day Brain Impairment Workshop organised by Dr Kevin Walsh in 1976 and held in Melbourne, where I was introduced to the fascinating world of neuropsychology. There were several annual two-day meetings, which subsequently became the ongoing yearly conference. The first workshop was a mega-dose from the Melbourne heavy-weights of neuroanatomy, neuropathology, neurology, and neuropsychology … and some very medically-oriented rehabilitation. The second conference spread its wings, with an invited keynote speaker (Professor Arthur Benton, USA; followed the next year by Professor Jacques Barbizet, France), allied health representation, and inter-state speakers - and that conference format has served ASSBI well for the subsequent 40 years. Over those years, an interesting observation is how the conferences have gone from a largely neuropsychological diagnostic perspective to a broad-based, multi-disciplinary society that embraces rehabilitation. I, for one, like that development!
From the sole event of an annual conference, ASSBI has blossomed into a vibrant, multi-faceted organisation. ASSBI members are continually coming up with innovative ideas that generally take off like a rocket, such as the burgeoning ASSBI Resources, initiated and fostered by Professor Skye McDonald. This repository now boasts numerous treatment manuals and tests, which aid evidence-based clinical practice. Another example is the BRAINSPaN brain-child of Drs Dana Wong, Emmah Doig and Joanne Steele. Their community of practice, initiated in 2017, has been enthusiastically received, with a membership of some 700. Dana and Joanne gave an inspiring presentation at the recent ASSBI conference, encouraging us all to consider more regular postings to increase engagement.
And speaking of annual conferences, wasn’t the recent inaugural combined meeting of ASSBI (42nd conference) with the New Zealand Rehabilitation Association a resounding success! Convened by Professor William Levack, and held in a remarkably windless Wellington, New Zealand, the conference was a wonderful mix of keynote speakers, workshops, how-to sessions, platform presentations data-blitzes, and posters, student events and awards, and of course, lots of opportunity for networking. And not forgetting those fascinating story-boards! The ASSBI Fellowship of Professor Tamara Ownsworth was announced at the conference. Congratulations, Tamara!
As you will read in the Newsletter, there were a number of changes to the composition of the ASSBI Executive Committee at the AGM. Now that I am president of ASSBI, Jacinta has moved to the position of past-president, and Tamara who previously held that position has moved to Committee member. We are delighted to welcome Professor Olivier Piguet as president-elect of ASSBI, Ms Miriam Poole as Treasurer and Drs Lizzie Beadle, Travis Wearne and Barbara Zupan as Committee members. Dr Michael Perdices and Professor David Copland stood down from the Executive Committee and we extend our sincere thanks to them for their work for ASSBI during their tenure.
ASSBI wants to encourage and harness the multitude of talent held by members of the Society. In that context, if you have ideas on contributions or innovations, I’d love to know about them. My door is always open.
My best wishes to you all, Robyn Tate, President