The mid-1970s also witnessed the growth of medical oncology and oncology societies, especially in North America and in Australia. Such developments led to discussions about whether the NZSO was an appropriate forum for those working in 'experimental cancer research' in New Zealand.12
In December 1976, Alan Clarke, the Dunedin-based surgeon and then-president of the NZSO, addressed such queries in a letter to the editor of the New Zealand Medical Journal. He explained that while the NZSO did not specifically cater to clinicians, it provided a 'very satisfactory venue for the future discussion of clinical oncology'. Clarke reasoned that New Zealand was simply 'too small a country to support two viable societies' for cancer research and for clinical oncology'.13
Clarke revisited queries about the involvement of clinicians during the 1977 AGM. He informed attendees that upon reviewing the history of the NZSO and its membership, he found that clinicians had been involved in the Society since its inception. Approximately one-third to one-half of the membership held medical qualifications and every meeting had included papers by clinicians or of relevance to clinicians. He concluded that the NZSO 'indeed does provide a forum for clinical oncologists'. Members of the Society had not only 'tried to encourage them to participate from its very beginning' but were 'very concerned to offer them even more encouragement in future'.14
While members were in favour of remaining as a single society, they were less certain about the most appropriate ways to integrate the increasing number of clinical presentations into the meetings. Some members proposed holding separate sessions for clinical and scientific papers, while others suggested organising separate days for clinicians and for scientists or holding two separate meetings entirely.15
Mike Berridge joined the NZSO in 1978. He explains that some of the earlier meetings that hosted separate sessions for clinicians and scientists meant there was 'a mass exodus when the chemists started talking'.
The NZSO was 'sort of divided into factions'. It involved chemists, otherwise referred to as 'chicken wire people' due to the appearance of phenolic groups, biologists, and medical professionals. Mike concludes, 'it was a strange group of people but with one common interest'.16
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Members' desires to foster closer connections between scientists and clinicians became especially clear at the 1979 meeting with the workshop titled: 'The Future Direction of Cancer Research in New Zealand'.
The workshop arose in response to researchers' growing dissatisfaction with the funding structure of cancer research in New Zealand.17 Bruce Cain was the president of the NZSO that year. He was conscious of the issues that had arisen with the formation of the NZSO the previous decade and was reluctant to endorse any event that the Cancer Society might consider 'political maneuvering'. He opposed hosting the workshop at the annual meeting and suggested it be advertised as an event by the Wellington Division of the Cancer Society instead.
After much discussion, the workshop went ahead and was hosted by the Wellington Clinical School of Medicine.