In 1914, Sydney urologist Samuel Henry (Harry) Harris (1887-1936) was appointed as the first full-time specialist urologist in Australasia. He became the first Australasian urologist to achieve an international reputation, publishing 37 papers, many of them in major international journals.
In 1927 Harris published his revised version of the Fryer technique for suprapubic prostatectomy. Harris’ mortality rate for his own operation was 2.8%, the lowest internationally published rate at the time, and for many years afterward. In 1935, he embarked on a tour to Europe, demonstrating his technique in London, Edinburgh, and Vienna.
Soon after Harris' departure, Sydney urologist Keith Kirkland wrote to nine urologists based in the Sydney area inviting them to form a Sydney Urological Association. Membership, it was determined, would be restricted to full-time urologists. Accordingly, the founding members of the Sydney Urological Association were Harry Harris, Keith Kirkland, Reginald Bridge, Malcolm Earlam, Colin Edwards, Richard Harris (Harry's brother), John Laidley, Bobby Silverton and Angus Walker-Smith.
Towards the end of 1935, the Sydney Urological Association was discussing expanding the geographical scope of the organisation and in March 1936, urologists from Brisbane and New Zealand attended the Association's meeting. It was customary at the time for medical organisations, including the Royal Australian College of Surgeons (RACS) to include New Zealand as a matter of course. As such, it was proposed to found a Urological Society of Australasia.
Harry Harris was in line to be the Foundation President of the Urological Society of Australasia, however his untimely death on 25 December 1936 from pneumonia, prevented this. The inaugural meeting of the Urological Society of Australasia was held in Sydney on 7 January 1937. The name was changed to the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand in 2006.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s the work of the Society was driven by Keith Kirkland in Sydney, Henry Mortensen in Melbourne and Jack Power in Brisbane as the annual meetings rotated between these three cities. The first annual meeting with a scientific program was held in Sydney in 1944 and initiated in Melbourne the following year. The Society was incorporated in 1948 and in 1949 hosted Eric Riches from London - the first overseas guest to attend an annual meeting.
In 1958, an initial meeting was held in Christchurch, New Zealand which was the begining of the rotation of the annual scientific meetings around the Australian States and Territories, as well as New Zealand. In 1963, Canberra hosted a meeting for the first time and it was also attended by the first woman to join the Society; Lorna Sisely, an Associate Member from Melbourne.
Membership of the Society has continued to grow - from 42 Full Members in 1947, just before incorporation to more than 750 members in Australia and New Zealand across all membership classificationsin 2020.
Although examiners in the specialty of urology for the Fellowship of the Royal Australian College Surgeons were appointed as early as 1947 in New Zealand and 1948 in Australia, little formal training in urology was available in either country until the 1970s. In 1976, the RACS Specialist Surgical training committees established a few years earlier became Surgical Boards and the Board of Urology was set up tin 1976, giving far greater control over the examinations for the Fellowship of the RACS in Urology to urologists. Since 2008, the Society has administered the Surgical Education and Training Program (SET) in Urology via the RACS. By 2020, there were 87 accredited training posts in urology in Australia and 15 in New Zealand.
In 1987, Gail Hill was appointed as the Society’s own secretary and in 1999, following a period as tenant of the RACS in Albion Street, the Society moved to its own premises in Edgecliff. A full-time CEO was appointed in 2002, reflecting the growth in the Society, the complexities of running the training program and the annual scientific meetings, and the wider role of the Society as the representative of Australian and New Zealand urologists.
Excerpts and information above taken from:
Sally Wilde, Joined Across the Water, A History of the Urological Society of Australasia (Melbourne: Hyland House, 1999).