What is ASSA?

The Australasian Student’s Surgical Association (ASSA) is a not-for-profit association dedicated to representing the student surgical societies across Australia and New Zealand. As a public company limited by guarantee, ASSA functions to provide medical students across the region with outstanding opportunities in surgical education and professional development, in order to enhance general surgical skills and relevant surgical knowledge.

Currently, Australasia’s surgical workforce is in a challenging state. With our increasingly aging population, surgical services will need to increase by 56% in the next 15 years to meet demand (1) despite already working at maximum capacity. Furthermore, access to surgical services in rural and remote communities remains poor and the training and retention of surgeons practicing rurally is an ongoing problem for workforce planning (1). These matters are only compounded by the declining number of students intending to pursue surgical careers, whether due to perceived poor work-life balance or barriers caused by gender discrimination.

These issues among others have instigated the establishment of student surgical societies in medical schools around Australasia. Not only do these surgical societies provide education and information resources to students and professionals wanting essential surgical knowledge and skills, but also provide them with networking and leadership opportunities that leave them inspired to improve the surgical workforce for future generations.

The surgical societies of Australia and New Zealand cater to a student base of 20,000, and multiple individual societies now have membership numbers of over 1000. It is these larger societies, such as at the University of Sydney, University of Adelaide and Griffith University, that require a means to share their experience and success with newly developing surgical societies, ensuring that access to surgical teaching and events is available for all students across Australasia.

ASSA is the network that connects these surgical societies. It not only promotes information sharing and innovation, but also provides them with strong leadership and representation. ASSA provides a sense of community for surgical societies across Australia and New Zealand, ensuring that they remain supported in their local functioning, and inviting students to participate in its annual Conference, Leadership Symposium and Skills Competition.

In its fourth year of running, ASSA’s peak event, the Australasian Students’ Surgical Conference (ASSC) forms the ideal opportunity for these surgically orientated students to meet like-minded individuals and share in their passion for surgical excellence, research and innovation. This promotion of an interest in surgery is not only important for encouraging students to pursue surgical careers, but also ensures that essential surgical knowledge and skills are developed in all medical students no matter their career directions.

As it assists each surgical society to achieve their objectives, ASSA remains committed to uniting and inspiring the next generation of surgical leaders to face the challenges of surgical care in the future.

History

Until 2015, ASSA existed as a sub-committee of the Australian Medical Student Association (AMSA) and was known as the Surgical Interest Network (SurgIN). During the last few years of SurgIN there was a rapid growth in the surgical societies across Australia and New Zealand at both universities and clinical schools, and the need for a strong representative body became critical for their progress.

In March of 2015, with the support of the (then) 27 surgical societies, the elected Chair of SurgIN put forward the motion to remove SurgIN as a subcommittee of AMSA, in order to enable the formation of a new surgical network covering Australia and New Zealand. This motion was approved unanimously by the AMSA representative council and the decision has since been ratified by the AMSA Board and a Memorandum of Understanding drafted to promote ongoing collegiality between the groups.

The 2019/2020 ASSA Executive has a strong focus on maintaining – and building upon – the mission, vision and objectives of the organisation. This executive now comprises of a strong corporate structure that has established itself as a public company limited by guarantee with ASIC. With the success of the Australasian Students’ Surgical Conference (ASSC), ASSA Leadership Day, Australasian Golden Scalpel GamesⓇ, among other initiatives, ASSA aims to further make surgical opportunities accessible for medical students across the continent.

Objectives

  1. Foster interest in the surgical profession and its required foundation in anatomy and basic surgical skills.
  2. Act as an information resource for members who are interested in surgery.
  3. Provide awareness of entry requirements, including the expected competencies, which are required in order to be selected for the Surgical Education and Training program.
  4. Link members with the surgical profession, through hospital exposure and networking opportunities with surgeons.
  5. Provide information and networking opportunities for related career paths, including obstetrics and gynaecology, anaesthetics, global surgery and academic surgery.
  6. Facilitate access into the surgical profession for under-represented groups, such as female and indigenous students.
  7. Promote participation in research in the context of a core requirement of entry into surgical training as well as more macroscopic issues such as access to safe surgery and anaesthesia in low & middle income countries.
  8. Foster student participation in research and provide opportunities for members to further develop these skills.
  9. Develop extra-surgical skills in members, such as in professionalism and leadership.
  10. Function as a health advocate in the local and global community, by fostering strong public support and health literacy, as well as supporting surgically orientated charities.