A Brief History of WAMSS

WAMSS began as the UWA Medical Students' Society in 1946 before it became the West Australian Medical Students’ Society (WAMSS) in 1957. It was formed when students realised a need for representation for those in medicine who began their studies in Perth and then travelled to Adelaide or Melbourne to complete the degree.

So, WAMSS actually predates the Faculty of Medicine!

Over time, WAMSS has grown into a large and vibrant organisation. At its core there remains the values of representation and inclusion of all medical students in the pursuit of a truly unique medical student experience.

Are you a WAMSS alumnus? Notice any errors? Get in touch at [email protected]

Contributors: Joseph Murphy, Samantha White, Jun-Ting Yeung
Last edited: 2021-07-31


Learn more about WAMSS below. 

WAMSS Beginnings | 1970s & 80s | 1990s & 2000s | WAMSS Today

WAMSS Beginnings, 1946 - 1969

In 1946, the UWA Medical Student Society is founded, with the aim to advocate for a medical school to be opened in WA.

At the time, UWA medical students would attend medical school in Adelaide or Melbourne. WA had a serious shortage of doctors.

The first WAMSS meeting was held at 1:15pm in the Women's Common Room on the 19 March 1946.

It was during this time that WAMSS's unofficial Medical School Song was published in the 'Pelican' on 16 July 1946.

In the 1950s, the appeal for a medical school in WA gained momentum.

UWA forms a Medical School Appeal Committee, which formalises the campaign and puts fundraising and advocacy efforts into full swing. Various public appeals were held, with funds raised from the 1955 UWA procession (PROSH) being dedicated to funding a medical school at UWA.

The appeal was a huge success. With a population of only 640,000 people, the community raised the equivalent of what today would be over 30 million to fund the school.

In the words of the former Dean of Medicine Sir Charles Court, ‘We are mindful of the fact that without the great generosity of the people of Western Australia, the Faculty of Medicine would never have been created’.

In a picture, Premier of Western Australia Hon. A.R.G. Hawke is seen examining the proposals for the establishment of the Western Australian medical school.

Copies of these documents can be found in our Archives. 

In 1956, the efforts of the Medical Students Society and Medical School Appeal Fund are successful, and the UWA medical school opens in 1957!

The Faculty of Medicine commenced with the appointment of 8 Professors, and the coming of students of two years - first years commencing tuition at UWA and sixth years returning from Adelaide and Melbourne to complete their course.

The Foundation Professors of UWA Faculty of Medicine are honoured in the Foundation Professors Walkway at QEII, next to the J. Robin Warren Library.

Gordon King (Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Foundation Dean),

Cecil Kidd (Psychiatry),

Cecil Lewis (Surgery),

David Sinclair (Anatomy),

Eric Saint (Medicine),

Joseph Lugg (Biochemistry),

Mary Lockett (Pharmacology),

Neville Stanley (Microbiology),

Rolf ten Seldam (Pathology),

Wilfred Simmonds (Physiology),

William Macdonald (Child Health)

The Western Australian Medical Students’ Society (WAMSS) was officially founded, formed by a group of 6th Year medical students in 1957.

In the pictures, you can find a copy of the first Secretarial Report, signed by Edwin W. Knight.

In 1958, WAMSS received our first documented fine from the UWA Guild. Find out why by reading the notice.

The first WAMSS Medical Dinner was held on 25 July 1957, at Cygnet Hall in Crawley.

This event is the highlight of the WAMSS calendar, being the largest and most highly anticipated event, attracting around 1000 attendees every year!

Check out highlights of other Medical Dinners here.

According to WAMSS legend, the 1968 Medical Dinner was hailed 'the best med ball ever' thanks to projected images of crass histological sections, caricatures of professors (Rold ten Seldam, Professor of Pathology featured in the photos), and provocative women.

The convenor of this event, which was held at The Embassy Ballroom, was none other than Fiona Stanley, a proud WAMSS alumni.

WAMSS in the 1970s & 80s

In 1970, WAMSS Vice-President, Peter Hollingsworth, is awarded a Rhodes Scholarship.

Tea Parties must have been popular during this time, as WAMSS members (Bill MacDonald, Fiona Pixley, Gemma Hounslow, Kerry O'Connell, and Liz O'Hare) are seen enjoying themselves in the Perth sun.

In 1978, as documented in the 1978 AGM minutes, WAMSS made changes to the constitution.

This included the introduction of a Women’s Officer to the committee, of which Fiona Lake was the first, and correspondence from Dean Joske regarding the establishment of a curriculum review committee.

The first edition of The Reflex magazine was printed in 1957. The aim of the magazine was to have a true reflection of medical student opinion.

In the 1970s, there was great variation in the production of The Reflex magazine depending on who was on the editorial committee.

The 1980 Reflex Editorial Team included Fiona Pixley, Donald Prendergast, Steve Gordon, Gary Garside, and Michael Levitt.

Ever since then, this tradition has continued through WAMSS' history till today. Some past editions are featured.

In 1982, the AMSA Convention was held in Perth. A look at the 7-day programme reveals how similar times are to today.

In the same year, Neville Stanley published 'UWA Faculty of Medicine, The First Quarter Century', documenting the foundation of the UWA medical school.

WAMSS in the 1990s & 2000s

In 1996, WAMSS Lookout was established.

Lookout is the charity arm of WAMSS and coordinates several events each year that provide medical students opportunities to volunteer or raise funds for local charities. 

Current and past activities of Lookout have included:

Bed Push,
Scrubber Day,
Ronald McDonald House,
Relay for Life,
Pancake Day

Helen Wilcox, now a UWA Faculty staff member, was the WAMSS Treasurer and was awarded ‘WAMSS Person of the Year’ in 1998.

This was also the year that WAMSS launched our website.


In 2000, WAMSS enters a new millennium and is starting to take the form of the society we know today.

Big changes are in store for the medical course at UWA, and WAMSS provides student representation through the entire process. 

In 2002, The Rural Clinical School of Western Australia (RCSWA) program is established, sending penultimate year medical students to the far reaches of rural WA to expose them to the rural lifestyle and medical care, and encourage student doctors to think about rural practice.

In 2005, the first intake of Graduate Entry Medical Program (GEMP) students into the 3rd year of the MBBS course.

UWA alumnus Barry Marshall, together with Robin Warren, was awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology.

In 2006, the “Faculty of Medicine” changes its name to the “Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences” to encompass other health science degrees offered at UWA.

WAMSS Interhealth is established in 2006. 

Interhealth is the Global Health arm of WAMSS and has several project that focus local and international global health issues. Activities run by Interhealth aim to inform, inspire and empower medical students in matters of global health and social justice. 

Projects within Interhealth include:

Crossing Borders for Health,
Code Green,
Institute for Indian Mother and Child (IIMC),
Local and International Needs Contribution Scheme (LINCS),
Teddy Bear Hospital,
Global Health Short Course,

In 2007 and 2008, WAMSS launched our flagship events: Red Party and Allied Health.

Red Party is the largest student-run charity in WA. Each year, WAMSS engages raises over $30,000 for HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns and .

Allied Health is the only event that unites WA’s four top universities, helping to forge bonds between the next generation of health professionals.

In 2009, WAMSS donates funds to the UWA Hackett Foundation for a travel grant scholarship for UWA final year students on their medical elective.

The UWA course redesign project commences. WAMSS representation attends meetings with the Faculty and submits a position statement to support the change to a postgraduate MD program, including the integration of advocacy and medical leadership into the curriculum.

WAMSS Today, 2010 - Present

Winthrop Professor Ian Puddey retires as the Faculty’s longest serving Dean (2005 - 2014).

In 2014, the first intake of students into the new postgraduate Doctor of Medicine course at UWA.

In 2012, the AMSA Convention returns to Perth.

In 2015, WAMSS wins award for ‘Best Faculty Society’ from the UWA Student Guild Education Council, building upon our previous successes in 2007, 2010, and 2014.

Back to top