The 2016 Australasian Students’ Surgical Conference (ASSC) was held from Friday 29 April to 1 May in Brisbane, with the chosen theme for the conference being “Technology, Innovation and the Future”


The Conference began with the Careers Night, hosted in the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel. Drinks and Canapés were served, as delegates networked and spoke to all the attending surgeons from each surgical speciality. Individual booths were set up for each surgical speciality with videos of common procedures, information about the specific training program entry requirements and surgical tools.

Professor Quinn, the Executive Director for Surgical Affairs at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons welcomed delegates to the Conference and the Careers Night. Speeches followed from representatives of all 12 surgical specialities, including Cardiothoracic, General Surgery, Neurosurgery, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ophthalmology, Oral and Maxillofacial, Orthopaedic, Otolaryngology, Paediatric, Plastic and Reconstructive, Urology and Vascular Surgery.

Academic Sessions

Academic sessions were run on Saturday and Sunday morning at the University of Queensland. The Conference was opened with an address from Professor David Waters, President of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Professor Bernard Smithers, Head of Discipline and Mayne Chair, and Professor Darryl Crawford, Head of the University of Queensland School of Medicine.

The five keynote addresses were from:

  • Dr Brent McMonagle, an Ear, Nose and Throat, Head and Neck, and Skullbase Surgeon on the Gold Coast. Dr McMonagle spoke about his training experience from Medical School to a senior consultant, his research in Olfactory Ensheathing Cells and Stem Cells in Nerve Repair and Regeneration and philanthropic work with the Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation.
  • Dr Greggory Burrow, an orthopaedic surgeon from Sydney to give his address on “Non-surgical advice from a Surgeon”. He discussed his time juggling medical school, while playing Rugby Union for the Wallabies and touring with the Grand Slam and Bledisloe Cup winning teams of 1984 and 1986. He served in 1990 with the Royal Australasian Navy, and has spent time at sea with Fleet Units deployed in South East Asia.
  • Dr Nicola Ward, an Orthopaedic Surgeon, Convenor of the Orthopaedic Surgery program at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Annual Scientific Congress and Deputy Director of Orthopaedics at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. She spoke about her experience training and working as a female in a typically male-dominated surgical sub-speciality.
  • Professor Derek Alderson, the Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons UK, Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Surgery, and Head of the Department of Surgery at the University of Birmingham. He gave a highly interesting talk about “Emerging Technologies for the 21st Century Surgeon” which discussed international surgical advances.
  • Captain Eric Elster, a Military, Critical Care and Transplantation surgeon from America. He spoke about his time working as a surgeon aboard the naval ship USS Kitty Hawk. He is the current Chairman and Professor for the Department of Surgery at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre. He shared stories from his experiences as a military surgeon, including his last deployment as a surgeon and Director of Surgical Services for NATO in Afghanistan.

Skills Workshops

The Skills Workshops were held in on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Delegates participated in three skills sessions on both days.

Saturday Skills Sessions:

  • Cyst removal
  • Women in Surgery with Dr Teresa Withers, a neurosurgeon on the Gold Coast and the Director of Surgery at the Gold Coast Hospital
  • Suturing
  • Chest Drains
  • Tendon Repair
  • Laparoscopy
  • Virtual Reality using Google Cardboard
  • Research with Associate Professor Wendy Babidge, the Director, Research, Audit and Academic Surgery Division of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
Sunday Skills Sessions:

  • Bowel anastomosis to join bowel after resection
  • Perineal repair
  • Skin flaps to close large wounds
  • Hand ties
  • Trauma workshop with Simdoll simulating a trauma scenario
  • Laparoscopy
  • Virtual Reality
  • Humanitarian with the CEO of Aus-Nep, Lisa Kiddle, who spoke about her experiences leading surgical camps in Nepal

On Saturday night, the ASSC Gala Ball was held at the beautiful Victoria Park Marquee, which included a live band, 3-course meal, and an after-party at Cloudland in Fortitude Valley to continue dancing the night away. The keynote speaker at the Ball was Professor Randy Bindra, a professor of Orthopaedic Surgery on the Gold Coast who has an active interest in clinical-based research and laboratory research in Hand Surgery.