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President’s speech highlights AMA’s influential voice

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You might not have caught the speech given by the AMA President Dr Michael Gannon to the National Press Club in Canberra in August. It was a good speech, well-delivered, and touched on many of the major policy and advocacy debates currently being prosecuted by the AMA.

The President’s comments on the strength of the AMA brought to mind the frequently-stated truism that the AMA represents all doctors but that not all choose to pay the membership subscription. In his speech, Dr Gannon reflected on the AMA’s positioning on major community health and social issues.

“The significance of challenging social issues like Indigenous health, marriage equality, and euthanasia is that they highlight the unique position and strengths of the AMA.

We are completely independent of governments.

We rely near totally on member subscription income to survive. I can promise you, as a Board member, it is often a concern.

But unlike many other lobby groups, inside and outside the health industry, this gives us a total legitimacy to speak honestly, robustly, and without fear or favour in line with our mission – to lead Australia’s doctors, to promote the health of all Australians.

We have strong public support and respect as the peak medical organisation.

The AMA was recently ranked the most ethical organisation in the country in the Ethics Index produced by the Governance Institute of Australia.

People want and expect us to have a view, an opinion. Sometimes a second opinion.

The media demand that we have an opinion. And not just on bread and butter health issues. But also on social issues that have an impact on health.

Our view is never knee-jerk.

We consult our members and the broader medical profession. Often we encourage feedback from other health professionals – the ones who provide quality health care with us in teams.

We attract public feedback whether we like it or not. I can promise you that social media has taken this to a whole new level.”

These reflections accurately represent the contribution of the AMA to public debate on health issues, and on broader social issues that impact on the health of the community. The AMA’s Constitution spells out that the role of the AMA is to represent the interests of its members, and also to promote the well-being of patients, taking an active part in the promotion of programs for the benefit of the community and to participate in the resolution of major social and community interests.

The AMA draws its legitimacy as a powerful voice in public debate through its representation of medical practitioners across the broad sweep of the profession from medical students to retired doctors, and across all specialties and places of work. The development of medico-political policy within the AMA is robust, through the specialist councils and committees of Federal Council and then to debate within Federal Council itself. The President and Vice President are the public faces of the AMA but behind them is a substantial process that ensures a representative voice for the medical profession.