1970 - 1979

From the early-1970s, members once again set about recruiting others working in cancer research and treatment to join the NZSO. They began by drawing on their personal connections. They also promoted the meetings by publishing the 'call for papers' and full abstracts in the New Zealand Medical Journal.1

The first six meetings of the NZSO took place in Dunedin and in Christchurch. The founding members aimed to establish a national society and invited Auckland researchers to join the Executive Committee. Yet, 'funds were hard to come by' and the early meetings primarily featured cancer researchers based in the South Island. Consequently, 'a lot of the connections were formed through correspondence rather than through people attending meetings'.2

In 1972, Bruce Baguley became one of the first scientists from Auckland to attend an NZSO meeting as it coincided with his trip to Dunedin to visit his sister at the University of Otago Medical School. He described feeling:

quite enthusiastic having been to the meeting and seeing different people from different backgrounds all talking about cancer. I think that was kind of an eye-opener that they integrated different people's ideas.3

The following year, Peter Fitzgerald wrote to the Cancer Society to request support for members' travel costs and accommodation. Peter had become president in 1972, and he proposed advertising the meeting as a joint venture between the NZSO and the Cancer Society. He reinforced the role of the NZSO as a purely academic conference that would complement – rather than detract from – the aims of the Cancer Society.4

The Cancer Society obliged. In 1975, the Auckland Division funded several scientists to attend their first NZSO meeting in Christchurch.5

History 1

Minutes of the 4th Annual General Meeting, 18 April 1975, Christchurch Clinical School

Bill Wilson was a PhD student at the University of Auckland when he attended his first meeting with his supervisor, Bruce Baguley, in 1975. He remembers the 'regional rivalries' that manifested in:

some quite hostile interactions during question time in the scientific sessions, particularly by a couple of alpha males who seemed to delight in banging heads very vociferously and in quite a hostile way. So that was a feature I think of the early years of the Society. It was sort of frontier New Zealand.6

Such heated interactions also left a lasting impression on Bill Denny. Bill had returned to New Zealand three years earlier in 1972 to work with Bruce Cain at the Auckland Cancer Research Laboratory. He remembers:

Clinicians could be quite rude to each other, incredibly rude to each other, and that was a bit of an eye-opener … they'd get into a slanging match sometimes, we'd sit there with open eyes, you know, saying 'we don't do that'. That type of thing. They're much more individual I think than the scientists.7

1970 photo of Bill