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14 Dec 2015

I have been an AMA member for five years now, and the question most commonly put to me by my peers is “why are you a member of the AMA, and what does it do for me?”

As the representative body for all doctors in Australia, the AMA certainly has a responsibility to its members.

It plays a key role in ensuring our training and working environment is world-class, and that doctors are able to practice medicine safely.

But the AMA also has a responsibility to the Australian public.

While the core business of the AMA is its members, it is not simply an organisation designed for doctors.

The AMA prides itself on the role that it plays in the Australian public health arena and the voice it provides on health issues of national and international significance.

With my few words this month, I aim to explain to you why I am a member of the AMA, and why I plan to remain one.  

The AMA plays a key role in the Australian public health arena. 

For years, the AMA has been very active in trying to improve public health in areas as diverse as tobacco control, alcohol, road safety, physical activity, food labelling, vaccination and concussion.

In October last year, the AMA convened the National Alcohol Summit, bringing together local, State and Federal Government representatives, community leaders, health experts, law enforcement officials and members of the public to discuss the health effects of excessive alcohol consumption, including alcohol-related violence, and the part culture, advertising and sport play in encouraging drinking. 

On smoking, the AMA has long exerted pressure on governments to tighten tobacco controls, and this year worked to ensure legislation keeps pace with emerging trends by developing a Position Statement on e-cigarettes and their potential adverse health effects.

The AMA has also been vocal regarding domestic violence.

This year, it partnered with the Law Council of Australia to produce and launch Supporting Patients Experiencing Family Violence: A Resource for Medical Practitioners, to help doctors to better provide support and referrals for patients affected by domestic violence.

The AMA protects public health funding.

As well as striving to improve public health, the AMA plays a vital role in safeguarding the health system.

Each year it draws on Commonwealth data and the experiences of public hospital doctors to produce an annual Report Card on performance of our hospitals. The AMA’s ongoing advocacy has ensured that public hospital funding is a high-profile issue for Federal, State and Territory leaders.

The AMA protects the health rights of those in need.

The AMA is vocal about Australia’s human rights obligations regarding asylum seekers and refugees, particularly ensuring they have access to health care. The AMA has called for an independent panel of doctors to inspect and report on detention centres, and protested strongly about the Border Force Act and its draconian anti-whistleblower measures.

The AMA understands the importance of climate change and its implications for global health.

The AMA was one of the first professional bodies to draw attention to the significant health effects that climate change will have. It surveyed its members on the issue and incorporated their views in the revised Climate Change and Human Health Position Statement, which was released in the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

The daily grind of the AMA is not about ‘protecting our turf’, but about protecting the health of Australians and their health system.

The AMA may not always be acting directly for you, but it is always acting in the best interest of the Australian public and the Australian health system. That is why I am a member. 

This makes my answer to my peers simple. I am not a member of the AMA for what it does for me, I am a member for what it does for Australia.


Published: 14 Dec 2015