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Student Orthopaedic and Musculoskeletal Association (SOMA) is a University of Melbourne Graduate Student Association (GSA) affiliated group founded in mid-2019. SOMA fosters peer-to-peer support between students from different locations and institutions with a common interest in musculoskeletal and orthopaedic health. Students from all walks of life and areas of expertise are encouraged to participate to develop an inclusive and diverse network.


SOMA has continued to promote and support members organising four key events in 2023:


  • In May, SOMA’s Vice-President Andy Liang organised a seminar on the multidisciplinary management of sports injuries. The event was held at the Austin Hospital with Melbourne Football Club Team Doctor, Dr Laura Lallenec, and Director of Austin Health’s orthopaedic training, Mr Matt Alexander as guest speakers. Laura and Matt spoke about their journeys from medical school and the training to become a sports and exercise medicine physician or orthopaedic surgeon, respectively, managing athletes as a patient, and finally a case study on the management of anterior crucial ligament injury.

  • At the University of Melbourne Doctor of Medicine Student Conference in June and for the second year in a row, SOMA was again supported by Stryker Corporation to host a Joint Replacement Workshop for medical students interested in orthopaedic surgery. With support from orthopaedic surgeons Professor Vera Sallen and Mr Sina Babazadeh, 60 students were given hands-on experience in performing hip or knee joint replacement on artificial bones, using the same Stryker equipment found in an operating theatre. 

  • The University of Melbourne Medical Students' Society held their first Careers Expo in early August, with SOMA’s Education Officer, Thomas Chow, supporting the event by coordinating a ‘Career in Orthopaedic Surgery’ presentation and panel discussion. Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Dr Julia Kirby and orthopaedic registrar Dr Mat Rawlings both spoke about their career journeys so far and then held a panel discussion with questions from an audience of medical students.

  • In late August, SOMA combined with the Mechanical Engineering Research Student Association to host an event for 30 medical and engineering students. Associate Professor Erich Rutz, the Bob Dickens Chair of Paediatric Surgery at the University of Melbourne, presented on human gait and the surgical management of children with cerebral palsy, while Dr Tomislav Bacek, Research Fellow in Robotics in the Faculty of Engineering, presented his lab’s research on the use of robotic assistance for patients suffering with gait abnormality. 


Our Research Collaborative began in 2020 as a way for SOMA members with significant research experience to partner with other graduate students and share knowledge and skills such as literature searching, tracking research impact, data cleaning, and research presentation. Through our efforts, we were extremely proud that in July 2023, our very first Research Collaborative publication was achieved in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery, Facilitated by SOMA, the conception, analysis, writing, and submission of this systematic review and meta-analysis was led entirely by current students at The University of Melbourne.

The OrthoPOD

The OrthoPod podcast has grown significantly since it began in 2021. Hosted and produced by SOMA President Liam Fernando-Canavan, we have produced 24 episodes of 30-40 minutes duration focussing on many facets of musculoskeletal health and orthopaedic surgery. The OrthoPod has accumulated over 2,000 downloads and is in the top 200 most popular medical podcasts in Australia. Some of our guests include the Dean of the University of Melbourne Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, Professor Jane Gunn, Cricket Australia Head Doctor, Professor John Orchard, and internationally renowned knee surgeon, Professor Julian Feller.

Home Theatre

In 2022, former SOMA Presidents Daniel Gould and Sid Rele secured $1,400 in grant funding to create “HomeTheatre”, an online video repository of surgeries for students with an interest in orthopaedic surgery to access and learn about surgical procedures. With help and support from orthopaedic surgeon Dr Jarrad Stevens, SOMA have managed to film and edit footage of three different orthopaedic surgical procedures, with audio commentary from Dr Stevens overlaid explaining the procedure at a medical student level. The videos were produced following written informed consent from patients, with all faces and identifiable information in the videos carefully blurred and then made available on a private video service which requires a login and password to access.

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