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AMA’s forward direction examined at National Conference

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Another AMA National Conference over with a stimulating and varied program, including appearances from the political leadership. It is rare to have a full hand of senior politicians – the Prime Minister, Health Minister, Minister for Ageing and Indigenous Health, Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Health Minister, and Leader of the Greens. It reinforces the fact that health is front and centre of national politics and will remain there as the next Federal election approaches.

Beyond national politics the Conference considered policy issues as diverse as obesity, organ and tissue donation, and the important topic of doctors’ health. It was pleasing to hear the announcement by Health Minister Greg Hunt that the Government would commit funding to assist in addressing the issue of the mental health of doctors and medical students. This will form part of a larger piece of work that the AMA is embarking on to develop a framework for doctors’ health and wellbeing.

In a year when there is no AMA election (as is the case in the odd-numbered years) delegates have more freedom to consider the policy topics, away from the politics of an election. Delegates have the opportunity to meet informally, as they did over breakfast on Sunday, when groups of members with interests in common came together to share a meal. As one psychiatry delegate commented, it provided a great opportunity to meet with other psychiatry members to realise shared interests and passions.

It was encouraging that members who had never before attended a National Conference were able to participate and see first-hand the work of the AMA. With the move in 2016 to representation from among practice groups, a more diverse representation of members is now supported to participate.

At the Annual General Meeting held during National Conference, the Chair of the Board, Dr Iain Dunlop, and I reflected on the year that was 2016. It was a strong year of medico-political advocacy and member engagement which can be seen in more detail in the Annual Report, available through the website.

I reported on the inaugural Future Leaders program, held in Canberra in early August. Calls for applications are currently open for doctors within the first five years of taking up a leadership position in a State, Territory or Federal AMA. The AMA Board is committed to investing in the development of the next generation of AMA leaders – I encourage you to apply if you qualify. Applications and selection criteria are available through the website.

At the Annual General Meeting the Chair announced to members the decision of the Board, taken after considerable research and reflection, to sell and lease back AMA House in Canberra. The Board took the view that more flexible investment of the capital tied up in the building would provide a better return on members’ funds. The building is fully capitalised following an extensive upgrade to its infrastructure over the past four years. A sale is likely later in 2017 following a marketing campaign.

For those who were not able to attend National Conference, this edition of Australian Medicine provides a good overview.