History of ANZAST

It started with an idea…..

The Australian and New Zealand Association for the Surgery of Trauma (ANZAST) was the idea of two of the stalwarts of early trauma care in Australia- Damian McMahon and Peter Danne. On the 8th February 2010, a meeting was convened,  chaired by Damien and attended by Ian Civil along with many of the regions recognised trauma surgeons.

The roles of the new Society were summarised as follows:

  • Identification and mentoring of trainees with an interest in trauma surgery
  • Education and career development
  • The further development, promotion and support of Trauma as a surgical specialty
  • To encompass all surgeons who care for injured patients, from all surgical specialties and the military.

It was highlighted by Stephen Deane that the new Society would need to consider it’s role in delivering training to SET trainees, along side the Trauma Education and Curriculum Development Sub-Committee of the Trauma Committee of RACS. It was envisaged that post-Fellowship training approved by the Society would subsequently be acknowledged and recognised by the Society.

ANZAST Becomes a Legal Entity…..

There was much enthusiasm in the February of 2010, however it would be another 15 months before the constitution was finalised and arrangements were in place to hold the inaugural meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Surgery of Trauma. ANZAST was listed as a not-for-profit public company (limited by guarantee), with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) in February 2011. On the 2nd May 2011, at the Adelaide Convention Centre and during the annual scientific meeting of the RACS, the first formal face-to-face meeting of the executive of ANZAST was held. Present at this meeting was Damien McMahon (inaugural president) Cliff Pollard, Kate Martin, Grant Christy, Zsolt Balogh, Ian Civil, Daryl Wall, Stephen Deane, Frank Miller, Russell Gruen and Richard Gerner (secretariat). It was noted that Michael Schuetz, Scott D’Amours and Jeff Rosenfeld had been active in the Society up to this date, but were unable to attend the May 2011 meeting.


Up and running…..

ANZAST did not waste time, and set about to start what it had set out to do- to mentor, educate and promote trauma surgery.


One of the early goals of ANZAST has been to deliver a series of workshops specifically tailored for surgeons who treat the injured. The first of these was held in 2011 just prior to the ASC in Adelaide. The Trauma Verification Workshop brought together front-line clinicians from all specialties with an interest in Trauma Verification. Since this time,  further workshops have been conducted:

  • 2012: The Contemporary Management of Spine Trauma for the Non-Spine Surgeon. (In conjunction with the National Trauma Research Institute). Melbourne. Victoria.
  • 2013: The Contemporary Management of Burns for the Non-Burns Surgeon. Auckland.,Aotearoa (AoNZ).
  • 2017: ANZAST Rib Fixation Workshop

The Journal of Trauma

The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery has been the official journal of ANZAST since the society’s inception. This relationship was formalised at the ASC in Kuala Lumpur in May 2012, where Ernest (Gene) Moore as an invited guest at the ANZAST business meeting, pledged to have ANZAST listed on the front cover of the journal. He also invited ANZAST to attend the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma (AAST) the following year in Hawaii, in order to host a free paper competition for surgeons from our region. The strong relationship between the AAST and ANZAST continues to this day, and has helped to foster collaboration across the two regions.

 Vale Damien McMahon…..

On the 19th July 2012, our founding president Damien McMahon passed away suddenly while on holiday with his family.

Damien’s passing hit ANZAST at the core. It was through his hard work, persistence and absolute belief that all injured patients deserve world-class care, that finally saw ANZAST get off the ground and become an incorporated society.  The loss of Damien also left a great hole in the community around Canberra that he  served so diligently, and in the surgical profession as a whole, especially the global trauma community. In the week following his death, Damien was due to teach on the Liverpool DSTC, a role he had filled for a number of years prior. His name badge which had already been prepared before he died, was left sitting at his place for the duration of the course. It served as an important reminder to his friends and colleagues that life is precious, and often unpredictable. Damien was survived by his wife and four sons. He was 53 years old.

A tough time…..

The following three years was a difficult time for ANZAST. Cliff Pollard very graciously agreed to take on the role of president, and the society went on to host the ANZ free paper competition at the AAST Annual Meeting in Hawaii in September 2012, and then the Spine Management Workshop in Melbourne in November 2012 and the Burns Workshop at the RACS ASC in Auckland in May 2013. Membership recruitment was slow however, and despite these activities renewals for the 2013-14 year were not going to be enough to keep the association going in the long-term. It was also a time of change at the secretariat level, and the association lost some of the momentum that had been harnessed prior.

There was a core group of determined surgeons who had been a part of ANZAST from the beginning, and who were prepared to continue to push ANZAST forward. These individuals re-grouped and decided early on, that there was too much to loose if ANZAST was allowed to simply fold. Through the long-term commitment from individuals such as Zsolt Balogh, John Crozier, Kate Martin, Martin Wullschleger, Scott D’Amours and Ian Civil, as well as many others who have supported the activities of ANZAST through the slow times, ANZAST began to find it’s feet again, late in 2015.

Relationships, and a new beginning…..

The turning point was an agreement in November 2015 between Kate Martin and Ian Civil, that Ian would nominate as president of ANZAST at the 2016 AGM. The deal was struck with a slimy, gloved hand-shake between the two, in the dissection lab at the Melbourne November DSTC course. Under Ian’s leadership, ANZAST engaged The Association Specialists as their new secretariat.

A relationship which had previously been established with the ATS (Australasian Trauma Society) allowing for duel membership to both organisations for surgeons was continued. The relationship with RACS and our American colleagues was strengthened further through the establishment of the Damien McMahon Trauma Paper Prize for trainees. This is awarded to the best paper presented by a surgical trainee, in the Trauma section of the annual scientific conference each year. The prize is to allow the trainee to present their work at the next meeting of the American College of Surgeons Region XVI meeting.

Through an agreement with DSTC Australasia, DSTC participants now also receive a complementary 1 year membership with ANZAST. This has allowed ANZAST to increase it’s profile, raise some much needed funds and increase it’s membership base.

Where to from now…..

ANZAST now has a membership of over 100 surgeons and surgical trainees.

The first steps towards a formal Trauma Fellowship Program have also been taken, with General Surgeons Australia agreeing to administer and manage the Post Fellowship Education and training (PFET) Program in Trauma Surgery.

The forth ANZAST workshop was held in July 2017: the ANZAST Rib Fixation Workshop, directed by Associate Professor Silvana Marasco. Plans for 2018 are also underway, for a multidisciplinary workshop for surgeons involved in the management of the shocked patient with pelvic and abdominal trauma.

And finally, ANZAST is now live on the web after a two year absence. We hope that this will allow us to engage and network surgeons from across Aotearoa (AoNZ) and Australia, as we strive to achieve the goals we set back in 2010: to mentor, educate and promote trauma surgery, so that all injured patients can receive world-class surgical care.