The discussions which finally led to the formation of the Asian-Pacific Federation of Societies for Surgery of the Hand (APFSSH) were conducted in Hong Kong on the 30th April and 1st May, 1994. Representatives of all founding societies, except India, were present at these meetings during which the name of the Federation and its objectives were established. A tentative structure was established with a Delegates’ Council, consisting of representatives from each prospective member society, and an acting Executive Committee, with appointments to be confirmed at a the next official Council meeting after individual member societies had accepted a formal invitation to join the Federation.

The decision to establish the Federation and the recommendations of the discussion group in Hong Kong were born of a prolonged gestational period. As early as 1979, Dr. BB Joshi from India organised an “Afro-Asian Hand Meeting” and advocated the development of a regional hand surgery group. He may not have been the first to suggest this. Regrettably, APFSSH archives do not provide a detailed and precise history of all those who contributed to the development of a regional Federation.

The Western Pacific Orthopaedic Association was established in 1962, changing its name to the Asia-Pacific Orthopaedic Association in 2000. Within this association was a hand surgery group. This could be considered as the forerunner of the current Federation. In late 1990, Michael Tonkin from Australia wrote to Asian-Pacific member societies of the International Federation of Societies for Surgery of the Hand (IFSSH), advocating the formation of a regional Federation. By this time the European Federation of Societies for Surgery of the Hand (FESSH) had been established, following preliminary meetings in 1989 when a draft constitution was agreed upon and subsequently adopted in Paris on the 11th February, 1990. The largest of the IFSSH member societies was the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), which was closely aligned geographically with Canada and the South American countries. It appeared appropriate for the Asian-Pacific countries to align as they formed a natural geographic region. Some considered that the effective function of such a Federation would be very difficult because of budgetary, geographical and cultural differences amongst the probable constituent societies. These were also problems which confronted the European societies when establishing the European Federation.

Robert Pho from Singapore and Tatsuya Tajima from Japan communicated regarding the structure a regional group, its name and its probable membership. Discussions continued at the IFSSH Paris meeting in 1992 and subsequently the 1994 Hong Kong discussion was organised at a Western Pacific regional education hand surgery programme, conducted by the Hong Kong Society for Surgery of the Hand with the encouragement of the IFSSH, who had appointed Tatsuya Tajima as the Chairman of the Western Pacific Regional Education Programme.

The APFSSH acting Executive Committee formed at that meeting consisted of President Tatsuya Tajima (Japan), Vice-President (President-Elect) Wayne Morrison (Australia), Treasurer Timothy So (Hong Kong) and Secretary Lam-Chuan Teoh (Singapore). LamChuan Teoh, with the other members of the Executive Committee drafted an invitation to societies of the region. They established a Charter for consideration of adoption at a Councill meeting to be held in Singapore on the 19th and 20th January, 1995. At this meeting an amended Charter was adopted by the foundation society members and the members of the acting executive council were confirmed in their positions.

The founding APFSSH societies were those from Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea (two societies), Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. The objective of the Federation as defined in the Charter:

This organization is formed for the purpose of promoting the practice of hand surgery and coordinating the activities of the various societies for surgery of the hand in the AsiaPacific region. Its main purposes shall be: to maintain liaison and communication between the various societies, to promote the free exchange of knowledge amongst constituent societies, to enhance the opportunity of hand surgery training through friendly exchange programs, to disseminate knowledge through publications, to enhance teaching by organizing scientific meetings and regional instructional courses. Amendments to the Charter, adopted in 1995, were accepted in August 2000 at the 4th Council Meeting in Chennai.

The first APFSSH Congress was conducted in Perth, Australia, in March 1997 with Mark Allison and Tonkin as convenors, Bruce Conolly as the President of the Australian Hand Surgery Society and Tajima as the inaugural APFSSH President. Subsequent congresses have been conducted in Singapore, Chennai, Seoul, Osaka, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kaoshiung, Bali, Kuala Lumpur, and Cebu with the next congress to be hosted by the in Melbourne in 2020.

The Tajima Lecture was established in 2004 to recognise the contribution to hand surgery of the inaugural APFSSH President.The current APFSSH President has the responsibility of nominating the Tajima Lecturer for each Congress. Those who have been honoured by this invitation are SP Chow (Osaka, 2004), Tonkin (Bangkok, 2006), Yu-Dong Gu (Hong Kong, 2008), Yoshikazu Ikuta (Kaoshiung, 2009), Lam-Chuan Teoh (Bali, 2012) and Kazuteru Doi (Kuala Lumpur, 2014).

Hand Surgery, the official journal of the APFSSH has developed in parallel with the Federation. The first volume was published in January 1996 under the guidance of Editor-in-Chief S.P. Chow from Hong Kong, who could be considered as the “father” of the journal. Chow attracted funding from a colleague in the business world and negotiated with World Scientific Publishing in Singapore to produce Hand Surgery under financial arrangements which were feasible for a fledgling Federation.

The Editorial office moved from Hong Kong to Japan, under the direction of Yoshikazu Ikuta (2003-2009) and subsequently with Akio Minami as the Editor-in-Chief (2009-2014). Goo Hyun Baek from Korea has taken over this role in 2015. Tonkin (Australia) and Moroe Beppu (Japan) have assisted the editorial office as co-Editors. Three issues of the journal are now published yearly, with the intention of moving to four. Subscription numbers in 2011 are over 1200. The development of this journal has been a significant task, the brunt of which was borne initially by the Hong Kong Society and now by the Japanese Society. Well established, it is a forum for the publication of the work emanating from the Asian-Pacific region, not yet matching the standards of the European and American journals of Hand Surgery but rapidly improving in quality and sophistication.

In November 2009, at the Kaoshiung APFSSH Congress, an APFSSH Travelling Fellowship Scheme Management Committee was appointed with a view to establishing an APFSSH Visiting Professorship and APFSSH Travelling Fellowships. These developments, and others, are a part of the next chapter of the history of hand surgery in the Asian-Pacific region, which includes increasing the number of member societies in the Federation.

Source: 11th APFSSH Website (accessed 2019-06-01)