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 to complete the degree. So, WAMSS actually predates the Faculty of Medicine!

In early years, Presidents used to be members of the Faculty, but clearly some things have changed with WAMSS now a wholly independent association separate from the Faculty. Some of our events have been occurring for a long time. For example the Annual Medical Dinner was first held in 1957, and continues to this day.

The shields of past Executives, award winners and Presidents are displayed in the FJ Clark Theatre Complex on the QEII Campus.

Over time, WAMSS has grown into a large and vibrant organisation but 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.

The current WAMSS Patron is Professor Constantine "Con" Michael. If you have more information or would like to contribute to WAMSS' History archives, please email [email protected]

2017 WAMSS Committee

History of the UWA Medical School

It is difficult to know the details of the first steps towards the creation of the medical school. Some attribute it to Mr. Fred Hadley, a distinguished surgeon who proposed a plan for the Perth Public Hospital (now Royal Perth Hospital) to provide teaching to medical students in 1912. It was not until 1916, however that teaching of ‘1st Year Medicine’ in Western Australia began with a single student. More students were trained in the ensuing years, though at this time each was required to travel east to complete their training. This model of education continued for a number of years, with over 500 students trained in WA before a three-year preclinical course was created.

It was not until 1941 that a Royal Commission strongly urged the establishment of a medical school. As Professor (later Sir Walter) Murdoch argued: ‘the present method of providing the state with medical services in unjust and wasteful. ‘Unjust’ because it denies the children of poor parents the chance of entering the profession. ‘Wasteful’ because it makes no use of the talent or genius for medicine which is debarred for financial reasons for finding fulfilment’.

During the Second World War, medical schools in the Eastern States restricted student numbers. A state government committee pushed for a new school ‘in the interests of the health and social wellbeing of the people of Western Australia’. But with significant financial constraints, absent facilities, a changing government and an attitude of hopelessness’ within the profession, change seemed distant.

By 1948, interest for a new medical school grew and an ‘Advisory Board in Medicine’ was established to co-ordinate the proposal. Key to the proposal was that the medical school would subserve the needs of others other than those of the medical students. It was envisioned that improved anatomy teaching would help dentistry students, better biochemistry would be learned by agriculturalists, and training physiotherapists would get better teaching in physiology.

Academics and others at the launch of the Medical School Appeal

Come the fifties, there was a dramatic increase in activity with many financial and other resources attained. More was needed however and an appeal to the West Australian public was made. 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 1955, work began equipping the five main state hospitals of the time with teaching facilities. Royal Perth Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, Fremantle Hospital, King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital were designated as ‘teaching hospitals’, with facilities and staff dedicated to teaching medical students.

Premier of Western Australia Hon. A. R. G. Hawke examines the proposals for the establishment of the Western Australian medical school

Multiple differences exist between the founding and modern curriculum. For one, the original 6-year medical degree differed subtly in structure to the current model. A ‘Gang of 9’ approach was taken with focus given to nine key subjects: anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, pathology, child health medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, and surgery. No focus was given to now key areas of study, including communication skills and public health. There were also significant differences in student demographics. Between 1957 and 1960 the school graduate 59 doctors, only one of which was female. Today, over 50% of the cohort identify as women.

History of WAMSS' Awards

The Terry Ivan Quickenden Award for WAMSS Person of the Year

For over thirty years, Terry Ivan Quickenden, or “Quickie” as his pupils affectionately knew him, was a stalwart of education for medical students. Throughout the years, he not only excelled in the teaching of Medical Chemistry, but his dramatic feats as a star of Med Dinner videos, was second to none. Quickie sadly passed away in 2005.

This award is presented annually in memory of the dedication and hard work that Quickie showed to his students and recognises the current student that has displayed the most outstanding contribution to WAMSS over the past year, above and beyond their role.

The Joel Carson Memorial Award for Service to WAMSS

During Joel Carson’s time studying medicine at UWA, he contributed immensely to all medical students. He was a larger than life character and his generosity and humour combined with his drive and determination made a great positive impact on his peers.

In addition to holding many committee and subcommittee positions, he also served as President of WAMSS, leading the society through a time of great transition. More importantly, he was a beloved and respected friend of both junior and senior colleagues alike.

Tragically, Joel passed away in December 2003 following the conclusion of his Presidency and his fifth year of studies. May his memory serve as an example of a life lived in the service of others, and may his sad death be a reminder for all to seek help in times of need.

This award is presented annually in memory of Joel to recognise those final year students that have given outstanding service to their fellow students by their contributions to WAMSS throughout their degree.