2023 | Volume 24 | Issue 6


The New South Wales Surgeons' evening—held on 28 October 2023—acknowledged and celebrated the exceptional and committed surgeons in New South Wales.

The evening featured the Graham Coupland Lecture and awards were presented to the New South Wales surgeons who have shown exceptional leadership through the year.

Dr Raffi Qasabian, who received the Service to Community award is a vascular and kidney transplant surgeon in Sydney with an outreach program in regional New South Wales and Armenia. He has started his PhD studies and  was the chairman of the RACS NSW State Committee and is a keen teacher, and currently an examiner in Vascular surgery.

Dr Angus Gray, a paediatric orthopaedic spine surgeon with an interest in education, received the NSW Merit Award. He was a RACS examiner in orthopaedics for nine years and a senior examiner from 2020 to 2022. The pandemic created a myriad of problems, which were successfully navigated by the Court of Examiners and their teams.

Associate Professor Margaret Schnitzler was the recipient of the Women in Leadership award—a joint award on behalf of NSW Health and RACS New South Wales. The award is for a Fellow in New South Wales who has demonstrated leadership in the field of surgery in promoting and achieving equality. Associate Professor Schnitzler was the first woman colorectal surgeon appointed in Australia when she started her practice in 1996. She is currently Associate Professor in Surgery, University of Sydney, co-Deputy Head of Sydney Medical School, and Head of the Northern Clinical School.

Dr Bish Soliman was the recipient of the RACS NSW Innovation award for his abstract ‘Laparoscopic assisted deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap harvest in breast reconstruction’. Dr Soliman is a specialist plastic and reconstructive surgeon, specialising in complex microsurgical reconstruction. He has an interest in research and is widely published on a range of topics including operating room efficiency and breast surgery. He is currently a research supervisor with the University of Sydney and the supervisor of training at Royal North Shore Hospital.

Associate Professor Laurencia Villalba delivered the Graham Coupland Lecture and was the recipient of the Graham Coupland Medal. Her captivating lecture was entitled ‘The world belongs to the BOLD’. She is the head of the Vascular Surgery department for Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, clinical lead and founder of the Venous Thromboembolism service and founder of the Vascular Care Centre in Wollongong. She was the first supervisor of training for Vascular Surgery in Wollongong and the first woman member of the Court of Examiners for Vascular Surgery.

James Lockhart was the recipient of the Medical Student Essay award for ‘All surgeons should maintain trauma skills: Debate (PDF 133.73KB)’. He has a particular interest in trauma surgery and will be undergoing his internship year at Liverpool Hospital next year. He is currently finishing his MD at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital with Sydney University and is also a research assistant—investigating the outcomes of pelvic exenteration.

Thank you to everyone who attended and made the evening such a success. Thank you also to our sponsors for making the event possible and to our RACS staff for their organisation.

2023 award recipients

Service to the Community Award – Dr Raffi Qasabian

NSW Merit Award – Dr Angus Gray

Women in Leadership Award – Associate Professor Margaret Schnitzler

Innovation Award – Dr Bish Soliman

Graham Coupland Lecture and Medal – Associate Professor Laurencia Villalba

Medical Student Award – James Lockhart


Image (top) from left to right: Dr Raffi Qasabian, Dr Angus Gray, Associate Professor Laurencia Villalba, James Lockhart, Associate Professor Margaret Schnitzler, and Dr Bish Soliman