Membership newsletter

2015 December Newsletter

Dear SSA Members and Colleagues,

 As another year comes to an end, I would like to take the opportunity to update you all on our Society’s achievements for 2015. It has been a busy year for many members of the SSA.  In addition to planning for future meetings and participation in continuing education activities across Australia, there has been particular focus on significant new projects such as the establishment of the Australian Spine Registry (ASR) as well as ongoing involvement with the spinal surgery Medicare Benefits Schedule review, which will affect all orthopaedic and neurosurgeon spine surgeons for many years.

This year we were also extremely saddened by the loss of our two much loved and respected colleagues and friends; Geoff Coldham from Auckland passed away in July and Ian Torode, Melbourne in August.  Their achievements for our Society and their local communities have been enormous. They will both be very sadly missed and our Society is so much the richer for their wonderful professional contribution, friendship and mentorship.

Scientific Meetings

Our 27th Annual Scientific Meeting is to be held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC), 8-10 April 2016.  The theme of the meeting is ‘New Technologies’. The keynote international speakers have been confirmed; Dr Richard Mannion, Neurosurgeon from Cambridge, UK is a highly regarded surgeon specialising in minimally invasive spinal surgery techniques. He has participated in MISS seminars and workshops around the world including Australia and he is expected to make a great contribution to our meeting.  Our second keynote international speaker is Professor Bobby (Kin-wah) Ng, Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and current President of the Hong Kong Orthopaedic Association.  Professor Ng has particular skills and experience in navigation imaging techniques in scoliosis surgery.  He was guest lecturer at the SSA organised Spine Day at the recent AOA ASM in October, Brisbane and he is a very informative, eloquent speaker.

The President’s Session keynote address will be delivered by Dr David Jaffray from Oswestry, UK.  David is well known to many of our members, some of whom have completed Fellowships in spinal surgery at Oswestry and will be familiar with David’s forthright views on many aspects of spinal surgery and cricket.  His address topic will be on, ‘Spinal fracture management’.

The Society Session will include discussion about evidence based medicine in spinal surgery, lead by Dr Ian Harris, current Scientific Secretary of the AOA.  There are plans for further discussion relating to billing guidelines and the MBS spinal surgery review.  As in previous years there will be a ‘Getting of Wisdom’ session with some experienced surgeon members sharing their past experiences and lessons learnt. Richard Williams, as Scientific Secretary will deliver his third scientific programme, which will include a range of clinical and research topics as well as instructional talks.  There will also be a very enjoyable social programme in beautiful Melbourne for participants and their partners.  Further details and up to date information can be obtained by accessing the SSA website or by contacting DC Conferences.  The 2017 meeting is planned to be held in Hobart.

Australian Spine Registry

This year some very important milestones were achieved in working towards the establishment of Australia’s first national spine outcomes registry.  Contracts have now been signed and executed between the Spine Society of Australia and SMAIO SARL, the developers and owners of the KEOPS software programme selected to be used for the Registry.  Contracts have also been signed by several device companies and we are extremely appreciative of the enthusiasm and financial support from our Industry colleagues, for the initial pilot registry.  The pilot will initially involve a limited number of surgeon participants, effectively functioning as a ‘proof of concept’ for a mature registry.  Detailed legal advice has been obtained from TressCox Lawyers and this has involved frequent communication with Mr Matthew Payne, Partner.  Domain names have also been secured and purchased.

 Michael Johnson continues to put an enormous effort into this project.  There have been some challenging issues along the way relating to data governance, administrative costs and some Industry participants’ desire for device surveillance data access.  However, progress is being made!

SSA Annual Seminars 

Dr Bill Sears, our Sydney neurosurgeon colleague has enthusiastically planned for the establishment of an annual seminar on clinical spinal biomechanics.  Our Society plans to hold annual symposia directed at both orthopaedic and neurosurgical trainees and also separately for SSA members.  The topics of these seminars will be in the fields of basic spinal science and other specific areas of surgery.  The seminars will of course compliment our formal Annual Scientific Meetings held in April each year. This is a very exciting endeavour and our Executive is extremely appreciative of Bill’s efforts.

The inaugural Biomechanics Seminar 2016 will be held on 27-28 May at the Novotel Resort, Barossa Valley, South Australia.  Sponsorship from LifeHealthcare has been confirmed and the appointed conference managers are DC Conferences.  The inaugural international guest speakers will include Professors Patwardhan and Wilke as well as many other expert research scientists and contributors. There will indeed be a wealth of knowledge to be passed on to us at this meeting.  The registration fee will be heavily subsidised.  Further details can be obtained by accessing the SSA website or by contacting DC Conferences.

MBS Item Number Review 

It is now over 18 months since the Department of Health, Medicare Financing and Listing Branch first contacted the Spine Society of Australia with an initial intended limited scope of review to be subsequently expanded to include all MBS spinal surgery items.  Since that time there has been a change of leadership in Federal politics including in the health ministry.  A whole of MBS review has been established, headed up by Professor Bruce Robinson.  Our Society has been assured by the Department of Health that there will be no deviation from the current spinal working party review process and there are no expectations for our specialised review to be overtaken or modified by any further reviews, e.g.: in the fields of orthopaedic surgery and neurosurgery.  We are also assured that any new system will be ‘cost neutral’.  The Department of Health obviously has much data on item number use across Australia and it is very aware of considerable variability of item number usage for various spinal surgery procedures.  An unambiguous item number system, which is equitable, fair and less prone to extreme variation in usage across Australia, is the main aim of this review.

As you would be aware, the Spine Society of Australia has been invited to form a working party from different subspecialty groups to consider and recommend a new schedule and fee structure.

The current members of the spinal surgery MBS working party are;

Chair: Michael Johnson (SSA),

Peter Wilde (ASOS/SSA)

Graeme Brazenor (RACS)

Rob Kuru (AMA)

Peter Turner (AOA)

Peter Woodland (SSA)

Bill Sears (SSA)

Andrew Kam (NSA)

Mark Davies (NSA)

Matthew McDonald (NSA)

Kathy Hill (AOA Advocacy & Governance Manager)

Stacie Gull (CEO NSA)

The working party most recently met in Melbourne, 5 December 2015.  The new schedule is now in advanced stages.  An entirely new schedule comprising seven sections has been proposed; the new system will include all spinal surgery item numbers listed together in the schedule, regardless of ‘neurosurgical’ or ‘orthopaedic’ surgery subspecialty status.

In some common procedures a proposed new structure and fee schedule will provide the status quo for at least 75% of providers and for other procedures providers will be better off.

As mentioned, in regard to ‘scientific meetings’, the new schedule will be explained and discussed at our next ASM, April 2016 in Melbourne.


The Post Fellowship Education Training programme in spinal surgery is now in operation across Australia. There has been a change in the governance of the PFET programme, whereby the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has withdrawn its ‘service obligations’.  From a practical viewpoint this does not change the functioning of the PFET programme at all.  The Australian Orthopaedic Association in affiliation with the Spine Society of Australia, along with the Neurosurgical Society of Australasia accredits and administers the programme.  Further details of these programmes can be obtained by visiting the SSA website.

Nominations for SSA Committee Members

The following office bearers are due to be appointed at the Annual General Meeting in April 2016;

President Elect (on expiry of 2 year term for Bill Sears)

Editorial Secretary (on expiry of 3 year term for Richard Williams)

Secretary (on expiry of 3 year term for Rob Kuru)

Treasurer (on expiry of 3 year term for Justin Pik)

At the meeting in April, I step down as your President, to be replaced by Bill Sears. 

Anyone wishing to nominate or second a colleague for one of these positions should contact Rob Kuru, Secretary and nominations are due by 31 March 2016.

Constitution; transfer of SSA to a company limited by guarantee

I have to report that this issue is an ongoing saga.  At the Annual General Meeting, April 2015 in Canberra, a motion was successfully passed to amend our constitution so as to transfer to a company limited by guarantee. Prior to that meeting, legal advice had been obtained from Swaab Attorneys.  At the AGM the membership voiced some very reasonable concerns about aspects of the amended constitution including the titles and makeup of the Board of Directors (including president, vice president, immediate past president, secretary, treasurer, education secretary, membership committee chair and editorial secretary).  Hence further advice has been obtained from TressCox Lawyers who have considerable specialised experience in not for profit associations particularly relating to medical groups.  The Executive has since received very detailed advice, recommending that further specific amendments be made and voted upon in April 2016, Melbourne.  The law then dictates that the completed transfer process requires a company to have its first AGM in the calendar year of its registration and that the transfer process must be completed within three months of consent being given by the South Australian regulator.  Therefore we must again vote upon the amended constitution and then hold the first AGM of the new company before 31 December 2016. 

As mentioned under ‘SSA Annual Seminars’, it is somewhat fortuitous that an inaugural biomechanics seminar 2016 is to be held on 27, 28 May in Barossa Valley, South Australia.  Therefore to avoid holding a very inconvenient extraordinary AGM, Executive suggests that SSA members should make every effort to attend in May to hold our first Company AGM.

This all sounds extremely cumbersome but unfortunately necessary!

Spine Society of Australia Endorsements

On our new SSA website, Peter Wilde has created and is managing an  ‘endorsements’ section.  Our Society is frequently approached by other organisations and individuals seeking support and endorsement for their various activities.  Requests are often made to gain access to the SSA membership database, which we will not release.  However, on viewing the SSA web page any new endorsements of meetings and activities can be found.  Please also find attached below a research survey application requested by Dr P Damodaran, Spine Fellow at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne.  SSA members are encouraged to visit the link to the Survey Monkey questionnaire relating to use of image guidance for spinal surgery in Australia. The link is

Thank you for taking the time to read through this update and I would like to wish you and your families a much deserved, relaxed and enjoyable Christmas holiday break.


Kind Regards and Best Wishes for a Happy Christmas and New Year

Peter Woodland  


Spine Society of Australia

Air Jordan VIII 8

2014 December Newsletter

Spine Society of Australia  December 2014

SSA President’s eNewsletter

Dear SSA Members and Colleagues,

As incoming President of the Spine Society of Australia, I welcome you all to the 2014 Christmas edition of our eNewsletter.  Many of us I am sure feel bombarded with frequent emails and for all of us, particularly our surgical colleagues, this is a very busy time of the year, both in regard to our workload and also the many social functions, which we attend. However, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your families a relaxing and fulfilling festive season and a much deserved Christmas holiday break from work.

Members of our Society continue to be enthusiastic and actively involved in many areas relating to instructional course and continuing education activities across Australia. This applies to neurosurgeon and orthopaedic surgeon members, as well as non-surgeon members.

Over the last two years the Spine Society of Australia has been increasingly involved in important national issues, often with direct communication from the Department of Health.  Our advice is requested and valued at Government level.  The forthcoming MBS item number review in particular will involve direct representation and input from our Society, which will affect all surgeons practising spinal surgery in this country for many years. As the peak association in Australia representing spinal surgeons, it is more important than ever that we remain strong; I would remind all neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons that the Spine Society of Australia is open and inclusive, and colleagues with an interest in spinal disorders and spinal surgery should be encouraged to join our Society.  As you know, attendance at our annual scientific meetings does not require being a member and visitors should be encouraged.  It would also be a great opportunity for new members to attend our next Annual Scientific Meeting in April 2015, Canberra.


Scientific Meetings

The Spine Society of Australia 26th Annual Scientific Meeting will be held in Canberra from 10-12 April 2015 at the National Convention Centre. The theme of the meeting is ‘Complications in spinal surgery; management and revision strategies’.  The SSA executive is working hard to ensure that this will be another very successful meeting.  We are very fortunate in securing two extremely well respected keynote international speakers; Professor Randall Chesnut, dual qualified orthopaedic spine surgeon and neurosurgeon from Seattle, USA and Dr Daniel Chan, orthopaedic spine surgeon from Exeter, UK will be involved in instructional lectures and also in two symposia relating to various aspects of spinal surgery complications.  Professor Chesnut has a particular interest in perioperative complications and intraoperative spinal cord monitoring.  Dr Chan has particular expertise and experience in anterior approach spinal surgery.

The ‘President’s Session’ will also be re-introduced at this meeting and Professor Robert Fraser from Adelaide will be delivering his keynote address relating to his personal journey in spinal surgery from 1975 to 2015.  He is an extremely well regarded Australian spine surgeon, founding member of the Spine Society of Australia and past president.  His talk promises to be very informative and fascinating.  In an era of rapidly changing and improved techniques in the field of spinal surgery, I feel that remembering our subspecialty surgical history and acknowledging our predecessors’ hard work and innovation is incredibly important.  The ‘Society Session’ will include discussion about the pathway to the current PFET Programme and we are also very fortunate to have the Minister for Health, Peter Dutton attend and provide us with his insights into the future of health, particularly in regard to funding.

The meeting will also include ‘The Getting of Wisdom’ session with three experienced surgeon members sharing with us their past experiences and lessons learnt in our challenging speciality.  The call for abstracts for this meeting has now commenced and Associate Professor Richard Williams, as the scientific secretary will no doubt deliver another extremely successful scientific meeting and as always there will be a very enjoyable social programme for participants and partners.

Further information in regard to SSA membership and the next scientific meeting can be obtained on the Spine Society of Australia website; and there will be links to the conference manager, DC Conferences

Neurosurgeon SSA member Dr Andrew Kam, based in Sydney is hoping to offer a pre-symposium on minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) immediately prior to the SSA meeting and further details will be provided in forthcoming newsletters.


Spine Society of Australia New Website

As you would be aware, a new fresh website went live in June this year. This represented the culmination of much hard work over the years with the original website set up by past president Peter McCombe, then in response to increased expectations and demands relating to the website, it has been updated to its present form, principally driven by immediate past president Peter Wilde.  The company Light Media from Melbourne were contracted to facilitate the web page and I would encourage you all to keep in touch with the Society’s various activities including forthcoming meetings by visiting the website.  Go to ‘’.  Peter is to be congratulated for his perseverance and hard work relating to our new website.


Spine Registry

There has been further progress in establishing Australia's first national spine outcomes registry. The SSA executive is fully committed to this project, and following review of various other registries around the world including the Canadian, British, Dutch and Swedish registries, it has been decided to adopt the KEOPS web based software program (Globus Medical, France). This program is reasonably intuitive and flexible allowing single practice private surgeons and larger units and organisations to collect and compare data. We are all well aware of the extremely successful and world leading AOA National Joint Replacement Registry. However there are various complex issues relating to a spine outcomes registry, including funding, legal privilege, data ownership and management. Government and/or Industry funding will be necessary. It is intended that participation of SSA members will be voluntary, and negotiations are taking place in regard to data management by Monash University. Michael Johnson has been extremely enthusiastic and productive in working towards the establishment of this registry. The main issue relates to the significant funding required to start up and then to efficiently run the Registry over the years.  There has been considerable interest from our Industry colleagues; it is expected that the establishment cost would be in the order of $250,000 with similar annual costs to fund the pilot registry of limited SSA member surgeons. It is intended that participation of SSA members will be voluntary and of course a significant benefit in joining and remaining an active member of the SSA will be access to this Registry, the first of its kind in Australia.


MBS Item Number Review

The SSA executive received initial communication from the Medicare Financing and Listing Branch, Department of Health (DOH) in late April about this issue. Nominations were sought for participation as a member of the Review Working Group (RWG) “for the review of spinal fusion–discectomy for back pain Medicare Benefits schedule (MBS) services being managed by the Department of Health".  There has been regular correspondence and discussion between SSA executive and DOH in regard to the purpose and planned scope of the review process; we noted that the initial MBS review document item numbers " MBS Data" were not fully representative of the practice of spinal surgery in Australia; some were obviously rarely used and likewise, other numbers allocated for artificial disc replacement, scoliosis and spinal trauma, for example, were not listed.

More recently, DOH has advised that a formal "re- scoping" of the review has been finalised. The review will now consider ALL MBS spinal surgery items. The stated aim of the review is “to assess whether current MBS spinal surgery items represent modern clinical practice, and whether some items need to be consolidated or  re-worded to remove ambiguity and clarify 'complete' medical services".

The stated aim is not unreasonable, but the SSA executive feels strongly that the review process be well-balanced in regard to surgeon–non surgeon make up of the panel, and that a comprehensive and accurate literature review be undertaken.

The SSA has nominated William (Bill) Sears, Sydney neurosurgeon, to be a member of the Review Working Group. Other SSA members Peter Wilde and Peter McCombe have kindly accepted nomination from ASOS and AOA respectively, and Graeme Brazenor, Melbourne neurosurgeon has accepted nomination from the College of Surgeons. Rob Kuru, our Secretary has subsequently been nominated as the AMA representative.

This obviously is an extremely important issue for our Society and its members, indeed for all practising spinal surgeons in Australia. Our Society is very willing to be involved in an advisory capacity in this process, which will probably be extremely time consuming and may take 18 months to two years to be completed.

The SSA executive has further discussed this issue at two face-to-face meetings and we have broad agreement in regard to our Society’s advice to DOH, once the formal review process commences.  A further meeting is planned for 31 January 2015 in Sydney and this will involve SSA, AOA and Neurosurgical Society of Australia (NSA) members.  The Government formal review process is extremely unlikely to commence before February/March 2015.

I will keep you informed in regard to further developments.



As you would be aware, Associate Professor Richard Williams has been heavily involved with the setting up of the combined neurosurgery/orthopaedic spinal surgery PFET programme in Australia.  The Spine Society of Australia with affiliation from the Australian Orthopaedic Association has now authorised accredited post Fellowship training centres and further information in regard to these programmes can be obtained by visiting the SSA website.


John O'Brien Historical Book Collection 


As has been indicated by Peter Wilde, at our last Annual General Meeting in April, Brisbane, this extremely valuable collection of books and texts has been transferred from Royal Adelaide Hospital (soon to be relocated) to the Royal Australian College of Surgeons at Spring Street, Melbourne.  Peter indicated in the last newsletter that a ‘John O’Brien Historic Oration’ is for consideration to be included in the Society session of our ASM in alternate years.


Nominations for SSA Committee Members

Nominations are now open for the following office bearers:

Membership committee chairman

Membership committee member


These positions are currently held by Michael Johnson and John Cunningham, who both would like to stand for re-election. The SSA executive fully supports them.

Anyone wishing to nominate or second a colleague for one of these positions should contact Robert Kuru (Secretary) and nominations are due by 31 March 2015.

Constitution; transfer of SSA to a company limited by guarantee

Rob Kuru is due to seek further legal advice in regard to this issue in the near future and further details can be obtained from the SSA website in early 2015


Kind Regards and Best Wishes for a Happy Christmas and New Year


Peter Woodland  

President, Spine Society of Australia

Air Max 1 Ultra Essential

2013 December Newsletter

SSA President’s eNewsletter


Dear SSA Members, 

Welcome to the Christmas edition of our eNewsletter.  2013 passed very quickly!  

As another year comes to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a peaceful festive season and much deserved holiday from work.

Forthcoming Scientific Meetings

We look forward to two important scientific meetings in 2014.

A Combined Scientific meeting with the Canadian and New Zealand Spine Societies will take place in Lake Louise from 25 February–1 March 2014. 

The conference brochure can be downloaded from Canadian Spine Society website – go to click on ‘events’.

The Spine Society of Australia’s 25th Annual Scientific Meeting – being held in conjunction with the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS) Worldwide Course – will take place in Brisbane from 10–12 April 2014 at the Brisbane Convention Centre.  Visit the meeting website for further details:

Ask your colleagues to join us!

I’d like to remind all neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons that the Spine Society of Australia is an open and inclusive society. If you have a colleague with an interest in spinal surgery, ask them to consider joining our society or have them ‘try us out’ by attending one of our meetings as a visitor.  You don't have to be a super specialist spinal surgeon to benefit from attending. And particularly, if you're a skier, the Society’s 2014 combined meeting in Lake Louise is not to be missed!

John O'Brien Historical Book Collection 

Members will recall that  SSA member Mr John O'Brien kindly donated his historic book collection to our society some years ago.  This collection resides at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.  Unfortunately, with the rebuilding of the hospital there is no appropriate location for this collection.  SSA executive felt that the most appropriate location for his valuable collection of texts should be Royal Australian College of Surgeons at Spring Street Melbourne.  Valuable suggestions have been received by the  SSA Executive as to how we should honour this generous donation.  My current proposal is to include a "John O'Brien Historic Oration" (brief 15-20 minutes presentation) within the Society Section of our Annual Scientific Meeting perhaps every second year.

Nominations for SSA Committee Members

Nominations are now open for the  SSA executive office bearers of:

·    Vice President

·    Membership Committee


These nominations are due by 31 March 2014. Please let Robert Kuru (secretary) know if you wish to nominate or second a colleague for one of these positions.  In the absence of nominations, the current  SSA executive membership committee well put forward nominations.



Prof. Richard Williams continues to finalise the syllabus for a combined neurosurgery/orthopaedic spinal PFET program. 

The Spine Society of Australia strongly supports the formation of a combined PFET program. We feel that optimal post-fellowship spinal training should include exposure to spinal orthopaedic surgeons and neurosurgeons working in a combined environment. SSA anticipates this task will be completed by June 2014.


Web page 


In response to the comments made during the Annual General Meeting, SSA has explored new webpage options.  To facilitate this process we have appointed Light Media in Melbourne to modernise the appearance of the webpage.  The current functionality will continue.  We hope to make our webpage more accessible to our members and the public.  


Spine Society of Australia Spine Registry


In response to the establishment of National Spine Registries in an increasing number of Western countries, SSA Executive is putting together a proposal for our own national registry.  Our intention is to provide this as a service to our members.  Participation in the registry will be voluntary.  Our intention is to provide SSA members with the ability to easily collect outcomes data for their patients.  Once collected, this data can be reviewed independently or pooled for a hospital or group practice.  In this way, we could establish working groups with particular diagnoses in mind.  Governance issues such as privacy and data ownership are complex and establishment and running costs need to be carefully considered.  We hope to present a preferred model for this registry to the AGM at our annual scientific meeting in April 2014.



Best wishes,

Kind regards,


Peter Wilde

President SSA

New Arrivals

Combined Spine Societies Meeting 2014 December 2012 update


 Spine Society of Australia


Combined meeting of the Canadian, New Zealand and Australian Spine Societies Lake Louise Canada February 26 - March 1, 2014


As you should be aware there will be a combined meeting of the SSA and the spine societies of Canada and New Zealand at Lake Louise in Canada between 24th Feb and 1st Mar 2014.

This meeting will not replace the regular meeting that will be held now in Brisbane in April 2014.


For further details of the combined meeting in Canada please consult the website page for this meeting or click here

For planning purposes I would be grateful if you could indicate your interest in this meeting by clicking here

You are receiving this notification because you have been automatically subscribed to the mailing list for information about this meeting. If you do not wish to receive further communication about this topic you may use the unsubscribe link below.



Best wishes 


Peter Wilde




New Arrivals

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2006 Newsletter

Here is the 2006 newsletter - edited by Graeme Brazenor.

Graeme has done a hugh amount of work and deserves to be congratulated.

The delay in publishing has been due to identifying a suitable and cost effective way of distributing the newsletter.

Members will receive a bulk email notifying them that the newsletter is available for download. 

Off White X Max 98

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