Australian Hand Surgery Society

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By Richard Honner


Hand Surgery as a specialty was slow to evolve in Australia, hand problems being dealt with by plastic, orthopaedic or general surgeons. In the 1950’s hand surgery started to gain recognition, particularly with the work of the plastic surgeons in Melbourne, evidenced by Rank and Wakefield’s publication of “Surgery of Repair As Applied to Hand Injuries” in 1953. In other cities such as Brisbane, hand surgery was mostly done by orthopaedic surgeons with a special interest in the field, and elsewhere it was divided between the different specialties.

In Sydney interested surgeons had formed an association to discuss hand surgery clinical cases and this group had started regular meetings in 1961. Crawford McKellar was an enthusiastic and active person whose endeavours led to the formation of the New South Wales Hand Surgery Association in 1963. This group held regular meetings, and had some interstate members, including John Hueston of Melbourne, and Peter Millroy from Brisbane.

This New South Wales Hand Surgery Association has continued to prosper, and holds four or five clinical meetings a year, sometimes with an overseas guest professor.

In 1970, and again in 1971, John Hueston invited members of the NSW Hand Surgery Association to Melbourne, for informal discussion of hand surgery cases, and demonstrations of his surgical expertise. At this time the concept of a nationwide hand surgery society was discussed, and amongst the members of the NSW Hand Surgery Association a draft constitution was prepared and a mechanism for setting up an inaugural meeting considered.

In March 1972 Sir Benjamin Rank came to Sydney and was met by the office bearers of the NSW Hand Surgery Association, Alan McJannet, Frank Harvey, Richard Honner and John Allman. After discussion of the objects of the group he agreed to support the concept of a National Hand Surgery Society, and to chair the meeting required for its formation.

The foundation meeting was held on 1 July 1972 in the hall of the British Medical Association building in Macquarie Street, Sydney, with 47 surgeons from around the country in attendance.

The draft constitution was discussed and eventually accepted, and the organisation was named The Australian Hand Club. The elected Office Bearers were;

  • President, Sir Benjamin Rank,
  • President Elect, Alan McJannet
  • Secretary, Frank Harvey
  • Treasurer, Richard Honner
  • Committee Members, Peter Millroy,
  • Don Robinson,
  • Bernard O’Brien

The members attending the inaugural meeting were titled ” Foundation Members “, and these were,

Foundation Members:

  • Sir Benjamin Rank

  • K.F. Hume

  • J.S. Harbison

  • D.K. Faithful

  • Charles Sharpe

  • Richard Honner

  • William F.Wilson

  • Gordon Kerridge

  • C. McKellar

  • Allan MacLeod

  • J.R.Lipert

  • John Livingstone

  • Richard Southwood

  • Richard Watson

  • John Sweeney

  • Tony Rieger

  • John Snell

  • Philip Marnie

  • W.B. Maguire

  • Bill Parker

  • Peter H.Greenwell

  • John McKessar

  • Richard Hodgkinson

  • Geoffrey Bendeich

  • Leon Pitchon

  • Benjamin C Cohney

  • Collins Greaves

  • John B. Maloney

  • Brian Cornish

  • Max Lake

  • Don Robinson

  • W.Bruce Conolly

  • Edward Gibson

  • R.K. Newing

  • Graham Anderson

  • John G.Allman

  • William Lyons

  • William Cumming

  • Anthony Hodgkinson

  • Peter Millroy

  • R.G. White

  • T.N.Best

  • B.McC.O’Brien

  • Robert Thompson

  • F.J.Harvey

  • B.Riley

  • A.H.D.McJannett

Following the direction of the office bearers, regular annual meetings have been held, in 1973 a meeting was held in Adelaide in July, and the Annual General Meeting was held in Melbourne in October 1973.


The Annual General Meeting was held in Sydney in 1974, and this was followed by a tour of hand surgery centres in the USA, by sixteen members of the club. This rewarding and informative trip was organised by Alan McJannet, and led by our first President, Sir Benjamin Rank.

In 1976 our meeting was held in Adelaide, and in 1977 the Annual General Meeting was held in Perth, with Ian McGregor from Glasgow as our guest professor, and he became the first honorary member of the Australian Hand Club. Following this meeting a joint meeting was held with Group D’Etoude de la Main on the Island of Mauritius.

A highlight of the early years of the Australian Hand Club was the international Hand Surgery Congress held in Melbourne in November 1979, followed by smaller meetings held in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. This major meeting was attended by over 300 surgeons from all around the world, with 4 travelling guest professors invited, and these professors made major contributions to the post congress meetings around the country. These guest professors, who were later made honorary members of The Australian Hand Club were Harold Kleinert, Ivan Matev, Eduardo Zancolli, and Christopher Wynn Parry. As part of this International Congress, 2 distinguished surgeons, J.I.P. James from Britain and Joseph Boyes from the USA were presented with the Diploma of Honorary Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons by Professor Douglas Tracy. The success of this international meeting in Melbourne was due to the hard working organising committee, based in Melbourne, under the chairmanship of Bernard O’Brien.

In that same year 1979, the distinguished Australian anatomist, Sir Sydney Sunderland was also made an honorary member of the club. Sir Benjamin Rank, who had been our first President, and mainly responsible for uniting surgeons of different disciplines in the early years of the club, was made an honorary member in 1980.

One of the features of our 1974 tour of USA Hand Surgery Centres was a visit to Baltimore to spend time with Raymond Curtis, and it was a great delight to have him attend our meeting in 1981 as our guest professor, and elect him an honorary member.

In 1983 our Annual General Meeting was held in Queensland, at Hayman Island, with Dieter Buck-Gramcko as our guest professor, making major contributions particularly in the field of congenital deformities. Whilst this was a scientific success, the meeting will always be remembered for our excursion to a coral reef well out to sea, where a fierce storm suddenly occurred and some members were marooned on a reef in a rising tide, but fortunately they were rescued a few hours later.

Crawford McKellar, who was largely responsible for the formation of the NSW Hand Surgery Association, was made an honorary member in 1986. John Hueston, the internationally renowned Plastic Surgeon, who had been so helpful in the organisation of the Hand Club, was made an honorary member in 1987. Bernard O’Brien, a former President of our club and a leader in micro surgical research was made an honorary member in 1990.


Graham Lister was a guest professor at our 1986 meeting, and Guy Foucher was invited as our guest professor in 1990, and in more recent years we have been fortunate to have more regular guest professors to stimulate and inform our members, Michael Wood in 1991, Adrian Flatt in 1992, Goran Lundborg in 1993, Paul Smith in 1994, Giorgio Brunelli in 1995 and William Cooney and John Varian in 1996.

In August 1989 The Australian Hand Club set up its first formal registrar meeting, Graham Lister was invited as the guest professor, and together with a faculty of members of the Hand Club a 3 day teaching programme was presented to registrars on the approved training programmes in general, plastic and orthopaedic surgery throughout Australia. This appeared to be a great success and similar meetings were organised in Sydney in 1994 by Michael Tonkin, and on the Gold Coast, Queensland, in 1996 by David Stabler.

Joint meetings were occasionally conducted with other organisations, we met with the New Zealand Hand Club in Wanaka, New Zealand, in October 1988, with the Singapore Society for Hand Surgery in 1989 in Singapore, and had another combined meeting with the New Zealand Hand Surgery Society in Queensland in September 1996.

At our Annual General Meeting in 1990 the name of the organisation was changed, and we adopted our new name, “The Australian Hand Surgery Society”.

The Australian Hand Surgery Society participated in setting up “Hand Surgery” the Journal of the Asia-Pacific Federation of Societies for Surgery of the Hand, first published in 1996, with Michael Tonkin as the co-editor. The members of The Australian Hand Surgery Society have continued to foster hand surgery in our Pacific region, with participation in the organisation of the inaugural meeting of the Asia-Pacific Societies for Surgery of the Hand, which was held in Perth in March 1997 following our own society’s Annual General Meeting.

The Australian Hand Surgery Society now has 146 members, with most of our new members well trained in all aspects of surgery of the hand and upper limb, and specialising solely in this particular area of surgery.


Ian A McGregor 1979
Sir Sydney Sunderland (Deceased) 1979
Harold E Kleinert 1979
Ivan Matev 1979
Eduardo Zancolli 1979
Christopher B Wynn Parry 1979
Sir Benjamin Rank (Deceased) 1980
Raymond M Curtis 1981
Dieter Buck-Gramcko 1983
Graham Lister 1986
Crawford McKellar (Deceased) 1986
John Hueston (Deceased) 1987
Bernard O’Brien (Deceased) 1990
Guy Foucher 1990
Michael Wood 1991
Adrian Flatt 1992
Goran Lundborg 1993
Giorgio Brunelli 1995
Paul Smith 1995
Grace Warren 1995
William Cooney 1996
John Varian 1996
Ulrich Mennen 1998
Richard Gelbermann 1999
Alain Gilbert 2001
Sheng-Mou Hou 2002
Gunter Germann 2003
Paul Manske 2004
Peter Amadio 2005
A Lee Osterman 2006
Steven Hovius 2008
David Vickers 2008
Marc Garcia-Elias 2009
J Bo Tang 2010
Peter Millroy 2010
Gus McGrouther 2011
W Bruce Connolly 2012
Paco del Pinal 2013
Caroline Leclercq 2014
Wayne Morrison 2014
Kevin Chung 2015
Michael Tonkin 2017
James Higgins 2017
Daniel Herren 2018


  • 1972-74 Sir Benjamin Rank
  • 1974-76 AHD McJannet
  • 1976-78 D N Robinson
  • 1978-80 B M O’Brien
  • 1980-82 P J Millroy
  • 1982-84 J G Allman
  • 1984-86 R A Rieger
  • 1986-88 R Honner
  • 1988-90 W Morrison
  • 1990-92 D Ireland
  • 1992-94 R G Morgan
  • 1994-96 D W Vickers
  • 1996-98 W B Conolly
  • 1998-00 A M Jenkins
  • 2000-02 M G Hayes
  • 2002-04 J A Buntine
  • 2004-06 P. Hales
  • 2006-08 M. Tonkin
  • 2008-10 D. M. Allison
  • 2010-12  S.Coleman
  • 2012-14 R.Sach
  • 2014-16 David Stabler
  • 2016-18 Anthony Berger
  • 2018-20 Michael Sandow
  • 2020-22 Jeffrey Ecker
  • 2022-24 David McCombe
  • 2024-  Mark Ross