Brain Sports with Dr Gardner

A local rugby player had suffered concussion during a game and was ready to play again the next day, when an MRI conducted by Dr Andrew J. Gardner changed the course of his season.

“Another Concussion on-top of a concussion can be serious,” Dr Gardner tells us. “Its all about managing risk versus benefit.

A local rugby player had suffered concussion during a game and was ready to play again the next day, when an MRI conducted by Dr Andrew J. Gardner changed the course of his season.

“Another concussion on top of a concussion can be serious,” Dr Gardner tells us. “It’s all about managing risk versus benefit. The player made a full recovery and is very thankful for all the treatment we’ve done with him.”


This situation is part of Dr Gardner’s daily work life: working full-time as a Clinical Neuropsychologist, the co-director of the HNE local sports concussion clinic and also contracted to be the consultant for the Australian Rugby Union’s Concussion Advisory Board.


From junior teams through to professional players and then post sports career, Andrew is focused on looking after the welfare of athletes.

“I have started my own business, Neurogard,  which delivers pre-season baseline and post-concussion neuropsychological assessment for athletes of all ages and sports.”


Andrew grew up in Teralba then attended the University of New England in Armidale to complete his Bachelor of Psychology, followed by completing his Doctorate in Psychology (Clinical Neuropsychology) at Macquarie University in Sydney and finally returning to Newcastle to complete his PHD in the School of Medicine and Health at the University of Newcastle.

Andrew’s thesis for his PHD on the acute and cumulative consequences of sport’s concussion in semi-professonal rugby players won the prestigious award for The Most Outstanding Dissertation for 2011 from the National Academy of Neuropsychology in the USA – the first and only time the honour has been awarded to a student outside of North America.

Dr Gardner’s academic excellency, among numerous other prestigious awards, has seen him gain fellowships to Harvard Medical School, where he was able to gain incredible contacts within the field of traumatic brain injury research.


“The best thing about Boston of course, is getting to see my Red Sox play!” Andrew tells us as he shows off his screen saver of his time in the box seats at Fenway Park and points out “The Green Monster”.


“I was only just yesterday watching the Red Sox win their 6-5 victory over the Yankees,” he says as he quickly replays the win on his desktop, the excitement still new. “I may have been yelling – just a bit!”


 “I’ve always been involved in sports, from playing to following the games,” Andrew tells us. Although his love for sports has been rivalled by his drive for academic success.

“In 2008 and 2009 I was playing Premier League Bowls when I had to make the decision to quit playing and focus on the transition into full time academia,” Andrew says, “and that can be a hard thing to come to terms with. It forces you to redefine who you are.”

Andrew understands the importance of a sports career and helps players and patients through tough journeys when they have to give up a career early due to injury and rehabilitate their life.

This continues to drive him to sit up until the early hours some nights researching and working.

“I can sit up most nights, I just get lost in it,” he tells us. “I love what I do and believe I have these skills and this passion for a reason.”

Andrew’s itinerary is full of upcoming speeches he will be giving at high profile conferences around the world; papers and books he is writing; all the while continuing to develop his research into problems associated with sports concussion in athletes.

Looking at his extensive list, we ask how he manages the complexity of his commitments and he assures us it is with ease.

“My job is also my hobby, only I get paid to do it – but if I wasn’t… I would be doing it anyway,” he smiles. “I’m meant to do this.”

Andrew’s genuine character, enthusiasm and passion is revealed as he speaks about the wonders of the brain. For Andrew, his field is his calling – his patients and players are in safe hands.


Dr Andrew J. Gardner will be one of our guest speakers at Meet The Villagers on September 22, 2016 where everyone is invited to join in the fun to hear 6 speakers with 6 mins each to talk about their field of expertise. All funds raised going to charity. For tickets click here. 

Proudly brought to you by Villager Property 

Lee’s Romance

Local creative Lee Burgess walked from her home in Cooks Hill into the office at Villager Property to have an afternoon drink and chat about her adventures in writing, and how her career has evolved.


Lee played the saxophone as a teenager and studied at the Newcastle Conservatory of Music. At eighteen, she joined a band and this is when she started writing, adding lyrics to their music as they cut their first LP.

It was here that a love for writing developed but it would be some time before it became her career.

Lee met her husband Damien, a lawyer, during a settlement while she was doing legal work. The pair went on to open their legal firm in Newcastle and Lee has used her experience within this industry in her writing.

After working in Newcastle for fifteen years as a corporate software trainer and raising two children – Danielle and Adam – Lee decided it was time to focus on writing.

“I always had an urge to write and it was time to get it out, ” Lee says.


While most of her characters and stories are based on real life experiences, Lee’s first book was a young-adult novel for which she was offered a publishing deal.

However, she knew that writing for young adults was not her calling.

“I want to write books that I want to read, what I love and enjoy – not what I think other people will enjoy,” Lee had told herself. And so began her first novel in the romantic suspense genre In Safe Hands.


She had heard that a great way of getting noticed by publishing houses was to enter competitions, so she did, to great success.

In 2012, her then unpublished manuscript In Safe Hands won the Romance Writers of America Silicon Valley Gotcha Contest, The RWoA Smoky Mountains Laurie Award and the RWoA East Texas Southern Heat Contest for Romantic Suspense.

This lead to Harlequin Escape offering Lee an incredible opportunity to be their launch author and kick start their online presence, following the boom of Kindle and other devices. The launch came with excellent exposure for Lee.


After the publication of In Safe HandsA Dangerous Arrangement  was Lee’s next title – a fast paced read set on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Shadows of the Heart followed – a small town rural romance set in the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales .

A Dangerous Arrangement went on to be a finalist in the 2015 Australian Romance Readers Awards for Favourite Romantic Suspense and more recently, the prestigious Romance Writers of Australia ‘RUBY Award’ for Romantic Book of the Year.


One of the aspects of Lee’s career is the research of different industries so that she can accurately write about them in her books. This takes her from studying about Italy to talking to truck drivers about their escapades in outback NSW.

“People who don’t read romantic fiction generally don’t know a lot about it,” Lee tells us. “There is sci-fi romance, crime romance, historical romance – lots of different types of sub-genres within the genre.”

“Women are front and centre in romance. The woman is a strong character and though she may have a conflict, there is power in how it is overcome. It’s about strong, modern heroines,” Lee tells us proudly.

“Romance writing is one of the most feminist things you can do,” she asserts. “It’s an industry written, run and read by women.”


“And we aren’t at all like Barbara Cartland. Romance has come a long way since the days of Mills & Boon and Fabio,” she laughs. “Our writers group is full of doctors, a pilot, university lecturers and lawyers.”

“The Hunter is teaming with creative writers and there is lots of support here,” Lee tells us of her experience as a member of a local writing group.

Lee contributes to a collaboration of stories surrounding a fictional town as a project within her writing group. They meet at the Greenhills library once a month and support each other, offering critique and advice.

For Lee, every book has a different soundtrack and each story has had a musical accompaniment while she had been writing. So what is the next book going to sound like?

“I’m listening to a lot of Lady Gaga for the current one,” Lee smiles. “Alejandro – I just love the vibe of that song.”


Romance is the highest selling genre out of all fiction publications: sci-fi and crime selling around 780 million books each year, while romance tops the charts at 1.5 billion.

Lee loves romance because it focuses on people and emotional growth, “Romance is a universal story. Hope for the future is a common thread the world over – people want optimism.”

Lee will be speaking at the upcoming event Meet The Villagers, a fun community event where 6 speakers each have 6 mins to speak about a fun and engaging topic to raise money for charity; find out more and buy your tickets here.

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