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Membership is like herd immunity

26 Aug 2013

I have developed a love for documentaries after having downloaded ABC iView and SBS on demand. I enjoy the escapism that they offer away from the hospital environment. I am particularly fond of documentaries with cute animals, breathtaking landscapes and the soothing tones of David Attenborough. However, there are some shows that as a medical professional I find myself compelled to watch.

Jabbed is an Australian made documentary that examines the history of vaccination and re-emergence of preventable conditions as parents across the world are skipping their children’s shots to avoid vaccine reactions.

Australia has a robust childhood vaccination program. Whenever I see a child in the emergency department, one of the questions I always ask is “Are your child’s vaccinations up to date?” In my personal experience, reassuringly the answer is more than often “yes”.

However, it is difficult to ignore the reported reappearance of childhood diseases such as measles, mumps and whooping cough. The reliance on the concept of herd immunity has resulted in decreasing vaccination rates and a resurgence of disease even in adult populations.

Interestingly, as I become more involved with the AMA, I find myself asking colleagues a similar question “Is your membership up to date?”. The response I often hear is, “No. What’s the point in being a member?”.

Gone are the days when people would join the AMA to be a part of their professional organisation. We live in a consumerist society where people want bang for their buck. Given that some Doctors in Training (DiT) pay a small fortune in courses, college memberships and exam fees, it is no surprise that they are hesitant to sign up to any additional expenses.

The AMA is best known for their advocacy work. The President, Council and Secretariat rely on a number of colleagues volunteering their personal time to attend meetings and functions to improve working conditions, rights within the workplace and protect the interest of patients. The difficulty with this work is that there is no tangible benefit that can be delivered directly into the hands of the members.

This lack of tangible benefit is compounded by the fact that the advocacy work AMA conducts is on behalf of the entire medical profession, irrespective of whether doctors are members or not. So why should you pay money to be a member of the AMA, if you get the benefits of their representation for free?

After watching Jabbed, the answer for me is clear – herd immunity. The more people we have as members of the AMA, the stronger we are as an organisation. This could not be truer for our DiT population. We represent the largest numbers of doctors but have proportionally the smallest number of members. If we can increase our DiT membership base, the louder our voice, the more power we have to influence policy and effect change.

In the wake of the national intern crisis, workforce pressures on the training pipeline, and now the $2000 self education tax cap, there has never been a more important time to be a part of the AMA.

So I leave with one question, “Is your membership up to date?”

Vanessa Grayson
Chair, AMAQ Council of Doctors in Training

Follow Vanessa on Twitter (@_grayV) or Facebook (
Previously published in DoctorQ.

Published: 26 Aug 2013