Our Speakers


Dr Barry Willer

Barry Willer has a PhD in Psychology from York University in Toronto, Canada. He is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine. During this time he has become an internationally renowned researcher on traumatic brain injury.

More recently his research focus has been on concussion and along with his research partner, John Leddy MD, demonstrated that a primary characteristic of sports related concussion is exercise intolerance. Their research has been instrumental in producing assessments (like the Buffalo Concussion Treadmill Test and the Buffalo Brief Physical Exam) and diagnosis based on evidence of autonomic nervous system imbalance. They have also demonstrated that exercise based treatment is the most efficacious means to assist in recovery.

Dr. Willer has written three books and published more than 150 peer reviewed research articles. Barry Willer is the patron of the Brain Injury NZ.

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Professor Ciaran Bolger

Professor Ciaran Bolger is currently Head of Department of Clinical Neuroscience, RCSI, Director of Research and Development, National Neurosurgery Unit, Beaumont Hospital Dublin and Consultant Neurosurgeon, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin.

He is Visiting Professor of Neurosurgey at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide Australia, Washington University St Louis, USA and University of Aarhus, Denmark.

Previous positions include consultant appointments at Frenchay Hospital Bristol UK and The Royal Adelaide Hospital South Australia.

He trained in Neurosurgery at the Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery Liverpool, Primary Children’s Medical Centre, Salt Lake City Utah USA and in Orthopaedic Spinal Surgery at The Royal Adelaide Hospital, South Australia.

He is a Past Secretary and Past President of EuroSpine (the Spine Society of Europe) and the next Meeting President of the European Association of Neurosurgical Societies.

He is a recipient of several international awards including from the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine, the Presidents Design Award from the President of Singapore, Awards from the Association for the Study of Medical Education, the Biomedical Synergistics Institute, Wichita, Kansas, The Biological Society, Dublin, the Intensive Care Society, UK and the Society of British Neurosurgeons, UK.

He is on the Editorial Board of the European Spine Journal and on the Review Panel or Advisory board of several other Neurosurgery or Spine Journals.

He currently serves on the council of the Society of British Neurosurgeons and the European Spine Foundation and previously served on the Executive of the British Cervical Spine Society. He is the UK representative to both the EANS and WFNS.

He is the Author of numerous book chapters and papers on neurosurgery, spinal surgery and has several published patents in the same area.

He has been invited speaker at numerous international medical and scientific meetings and has served as faculty on international training courses for neurosurgery, spinal and computer guided surgery.

He is a serial entrepreneur, have been involved in 5 startups 4 of which, to date, have achieved commercialisation.

He is a qualified and enthusiastic pilot. He also served as Candidate Astronaut to the European Space Agency.


Dr Stephen Kara

Stephen is a Sports Doctor recently commencing work with Axis Sports Medicine Specialists in a dedicated sports concussion clinic. He has a background in general practice and completed his Diploma in Sports Medicine in 1998. For the past 15 years he has worked in rugby medicine with provincial teams, national teams and Super rugby side The Blues from 2008-2017. His interest in concussion was generated from his time involved in contact sports, and has led to an education role with NZ rugby for community based rugby and referees.

Stephen runs the Axis Sports Concussion Clinic in Auckland - an ACC fully funded community based clinic for those who have sustained a sports related concussion. His role includes community based lectures updating concussion and concussion management, for school nurses, emergency care departments, primary care practitioners and sporting organisations.


Katherine Forch

Katherine is an AUT trained sports physiotherapist with a special interest in the field of vestibular and oculomotor rehabilitation. She completed the Herdmann competencies in 2012 with teaching staff from the Mayo Clinic and Emory University, USA.

She has extensive sideline experience in a variety of codes, and has combined these skills to be a sports specific vestibular therapist. She currently works out of the Axis Sports Concussion Clinic in Auckland, and consults with high performance sport and Super Rugby teams. She is passionate about advocating for awareness of vestibular conditions and physiotherapy‘s role in proactively managing these.


Greg Smith

Greg Smith is director of Wintec's centre for sport science and human performance director. He played hooker for the Chiefs, has coached Waikato and played test rugby for Fiji.


Dr Ewan Kennedy

Ewan is a lecturer in the School of Physiotherapy at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. His PhD explored the clinical anatomy of the anterior neck muscles and he is an experienced clinical educator and teacher.

His interest in concussion grew from having expertise in neck assessment and noticing multiple areas of overlap in neck and concussion injuries. In 2016 Ewan received a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Orthopaedic Manual Therapy to investigate ‘How does the neck contribute to persistent post-concussion symptoms?’. This research continues to help characterise neck-related issues in concussion and raise awareness of overlap in neck and concussion injuries, particularly in people with persistent symptoms.

Ewan co-leads the final year physiotherapy programme at the University of Otago, and serves on the education committee of the New Zealand Manipulative Physiotherapists Association.


Dr Danielle Salmon

Danielle is currently the Research Officer for NZ Rugby. In this role she is conducting the injury surveillance for NZ Super Rugby teams, coordinating RugbySmart’s concussion awareness, education and management strategy and is the research coordinator for Active Concussion Rehabilitation study being conducted with Super Rugby during the 2018 sponsored by the NFL players association.

She completed her PhD at the University of Otago and is a member of the South Island Brain Injury Research Group.