Through grass-roots action the Australasian Students’ Surgical Association will unite and inspire the next generation of surgical leaders and will improve surgical care and access in our community.


The Australasian Students’ Surgical Association (ASSA) will ultimately connect and support the surgical societies of Australia and New Zealand by providing information, resources, and networking opportunities to students and professionals who are interested in developing essential surgical knowledge and skills.

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.


The Executive

Will Ridley


Will is a fifth year medical student at the University of New England, and is currently completing his clinical years at John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle. 

Will has been extensively involved within student surgical societies throughout his degree, including the positions of President of the University of New England Surgical Society (2016-17), the Vice President of the University of Newcastle Surgical Society (2017-18) and Academic Co-Convenor of the Australasian Students’ Surgical Conference (ASSC) in 2018. 

He is very passionate about establishing collaborative efforts between the surgical societies of Australia and New Zealand, and providing more opportunities of professional quality for surgically-inclined medical students.

Mahsa Sarrami

Mahsa Sarrami

Vice-President External

Mahsa is a fifth year Medical student at the University of Newcastle. She has previously served as the President of the University of Newcastle Surgical Society, notably introducing a Women in Surgery Evening, Trauma Night and countless Anatomy nights.

Earlier in May, Mahsa Co-Convened the Australasian Students’ Surgical Conference – ASSA’s largest annual event – in Sydney, which hosted over 400 students from across Australia and New Zealand.

Mahsa is very excited to work as the Vice President External of ASSA and looks forward to building close relationships with the Surgical Societies across Australia and New Zealand. She also has a strong passion for advocating for diversity in surgery and promoting surgical opportunities to all surgically-inclined students.

John Kefalianos

John Kefalianos

Vice-President Internal

I am currently completing my final year of Medicine at Deakin University, Victoria, Australia, and have had the privilege of leading Deakin’s Surgical Interest Group for the past two years. 

As VPI for the ASSA 2018/19, my aim is to share the passion I have for surgery and surgical education with medical students across Australasia, with a strong focus on fostering a relationship between medical schools to improve collaboration between surgical societies.

Grace Dennis

Grace Dennis


Grace is a third-year student from the University of Newcastle, and will be placed on the Central Coast for the following year. Having started medical school with very little knowledge or inclination towards surgery, being able to attend events and learn from both local surgeons and other students has been incredible in sparking her interest. 

After being involved with ASSC and the University of Newcastle Surgical Society in 2018, she is very keen to work with the rest of the ASSA team to engage with and support fellow students in both the academic and practical sides of surgery!

Bahjat Alirani

Bahjat Alirani


Bahjat is a third-year medical student at the Australian National University in Canberra. Before moving to Canberra, Bahjat lived in Sydney, Amman, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Los Angeles and Melbourne, in that order.

Bahjat was the Communications Officer for the Australasian Students’ Surgical Conference in 2018 and has been involved in his local surgical society.

In addition to surgery, Bahjat is passionate about social justice and Indigenous health and wants to further explore the relationship between the three. He is excited to get other medical students, especially at ANU, more interested and involved in surgery.

Reece Tso

Reece Tso

Events Director

Reece is in his sixth year of Medicine at James Cook University based in Townsville. His first experience at ASSA has inspired his pursuit of academic surgery.  

He is enthusiastic about facilitating opportunities for all medical students to pursue their passion and ambitions, acquire skills and knowledge through events.  Reece has worked extensively in events from National Conventions to local club and MedSoc events.  

As events Director, Reece aims to facilitate passions and pursuits of surgical specialties at national and state based surgical events. He aims to create supportive environments that upskill and drive inspiration for all students.   

Jason Luong

Jason Luong

Academic Officer

Jason is in his third year of the Sydney Medical Program, having previously completed a degree in Medical Science, also at the University of Sydney. 

He is involved in local surgical societies, including the Sydney University Surgical Society and Westmead Students’ Surgical Association and was Academic Co-convenor for the Australasian Students’ Surgical Conference in 2018. 

He is enthusiastic about surgical education and involving medical students in research and these will be a priority during his ASSA term.

Teresa Liew

Teresa Liew

Promotions Officer

Teresa is a third year medical student at the University of Queensland, and will be starting her clinical years at the Prince Charles Hospital in 2019. Prior to moving to Australia, she completed her BSc. Biomedical Science degree in Sheffield, England.

Teresa is very interested in the field of Surgery and has been involved in her local surgical society, Incision UQ, where she had the opportunity to network and learn from local surgeons in Brisbane.

In her role as the Promotions Officer, she hopes to improve ASSA’s engagement with all students and provide them with a platform to learn about about the field of surgery.



Systems Administrator

My name is Vanamali and I’m a 3rd Year Medical Student all the way from the University of Auckland, New Zealand (Go the All Blacks!!).  

My official role is IT officer but “SYSADMIN” sounds 9000x cooler. As IT Officer for ASSA 2018/19, my aim is to use technology to allow ASSA to work better internally,and to provide a wealth of resources and services to the aspiring surgical students we aim to serve. Technology is my passion, and I’m grateful that I can use ASSA as an outlet for it to do good.

In my spare time I like eating food, driving around my dusty mazda demio and having a good yarn with mates.

Rahul Makam

Rahul Makam

Sponsorship Officer

Rahul is our sponsorship officer. He’s responsible for making sure people know about ASSA, and that the events we run can be as affordable as possible for student budgets.

Shebani Farik

Shebani Farik

Global Surgery Chair

Shebani is a final year medical student at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.  She is passionate about global health, human rights and using health strategies to promote gains in vulnerable populations. In her role as the Global Surgery Chair, she hopes to empower other ASSA members to advocate for Global Surgery. 

She looks forward to facilitating opportunities for multi-sectoral and transnational collaboration through education and research. Her vision is to inspire the next generation of surgical leaders to champion equitable surgical care for local and global communities. 



Until 2015, ASSA existed a sub-committee of the Australasian Medical Student Association (AMSA) and was known as the Surgical Interest Network (SurgIN). During the last few years there has been 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 has become critical for their progress. In March of 2015, with the support of the 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. 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.


After a strong start from the 2016 ASSA Executive, the 2017 ASSA Executive has its focus on achieving 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) 2016 held in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, the ASSA aims to further develop and promote  the conference and its entities in 2017.



  1. Promote the profession of surgery to all members.
  2. Foster interest in the surgical profession and its required foundation in anatomy.
  3. Act as an information resource for members who are interested in surgery.
  4. Provide awareness of entry requirements, including the expected competencies, which are required in order to be selected for the Surgical Education and Training program.
  5. Link members with the surgical profession, through hospital exposure and networking opportunities with surgeons.
  6. Facilitate access into the surgical profession for underrepresented groups, such as female students.
  7. Promote participation in research in the context of a core requirement of entry into surgical training.
  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.