Sharpened focus on learning and awareness
MDNZ’s public seminars are key to raising awareness of AMD across Aotearoa

Sharpened focus on learning and awareness

October 1, 2023 Staff reporters

After the challenging Covid years, Macular Degeneration New Zealand (MDNZ) is back and re-engaging with health professionals, offering more learning opportunities from October 2023.


Its new educational and awareness programme kicked off with New Zealand’s general practitioners, a gateway for many patients, said MDNZ trustee Dr Ainsley Morris. “For many patients, their GP is the first port of call when disaster strikes.” MDNZ general manager Sarah Berman attended both the North and South Island GP conferences and had very positive responses, she said. “So next time you’re in your GP's waiting room, if you think they need an Amsler grid, give her a call – she is happy to provide educational information.”


MDNZ’s first public seminar this year is being held at Taupo’s Suncourt Hotel at 10am on 7 October, said Berman. “The seminar will be presented by Dr Malcolm Naudé from Rotorua Eye Clinic and we ask local optometrists to encourage their clients who are over 50 years of age, or those with a family history of MD, to attend. Local optometrists are, of course, also very welcome to join us.”


For practices wanting their non-medical, front-of-house staff to learn more about macular degeneration, there are currently two options: a free one-hour online learning module through the University of Auckland’s Goodfellow Learning Unit (, or a MDNZ seminar recording delivered by ophthalmologist Dr Andrew Thompson (


Berman also wished to reassure eye health professionals that the 0800 helpline is up and running again. “We had a brief period when we changed our phone technology and people had to leave a message and await a reply, but thankfully that is now all sorted,” she said.


MDNZ boosts team


In other news, MDNZ has appointed former dentist Deborah Gibson-Hardie as its new client services manager.


Deborah Gibson-Hardie



Berman said Gibson-Hardie is going to be a wonderful asset for MDNZ and the people it serves. “We are already seeing the benefit of Deborah’s empathetic approach, her organisational and client services skills and the knowledge she brings with her medical background. Deborah’s friendly and knowledgeable approach will be appreciated by patients and health professionals alike.”


Having spent 20-plus years working as a dentist in private practice and in a public hospital, lockdown reflections resulted in Gibson-Hardie wanting a change. “This role seemed like an ideal opportunity. I thought to myself, ‘It’s not a big distance from the teeth to the eyes!’ I could see it was a job that would utilise my medical knowledge, where I could enjoy working with people and continue to develop new skills. Also, the fact that MDNZ is a not-for-profit organisation really appealed to me. I loved the idea of being able to help people without asking for anything in return.”


Gibson-Hardie said she is already deep into the project management aspect of the role as she is helping to organise MDNZ’s awareness and education seminars.


Sign up to the Taupo seminar here,