Changing of the Guard

9 Jun 2016

The end of May saw another successful AMA National Conference, and with it a changing of the guard. The Chair of the AMA Council of Doctors in Training (CDT) , Dr Danika Thiemt has completed her term and hands over the reins. Danika has been a truly inspirational leader for CDT over these last two years and has left extremely big shoes for me to fill. Specifically, Danika’s leadership on issues such as bullying and harassment, gender equity in medicine and on workforce reform have made the profession all the better for having had her lead its doctors in training. My sincerest thanks to Danika for not only her dedication and commitment to CDT, but also for positioning CDT for great things to come.

So, who has taken her place for these next two years? My name is Dr John Zorbas, and I am an advanced trainee in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine. I trained and worked in Western Australia, and I now find myself working at Royal Darwin Hospital in the Northern Territory, where the crocodiles are plentiful and the temperature always a balmy 35ºC. I have been a member of CDT for over three years now, and I have seen the council and its work grow significantly over this time.

2016 is no time for us to be taking the foot of the pedal, and there’s already a lot in store. Our current priority work area is the National Code of Practice on Safe Working Hours. This piece of work has existed since 1999 and led to a raft of changes across the country in terms of safe hours for doctors-in-training. I’m particularly proud of the work the AMA has done in this space, having seen first hand the extremely harmful effects of fatigue on friends and colleagues. The upcoming Safe Hours Audit is a time where we get a snapshot of working hours across the country, in an effort to judge how we’re performing at achieving safe working hours. The advocacy generated from this work is invaluable at changing unsafe work practices across the country and I urge to respond when the audit is conducted in August.

Flexible work arrangements have been an area that CDT has been very active in over the past year and we’d like to ramp up our efforts in this area by taking the action directly to the States and Territories. The AMA has recently approved a position statement on flexible working arrangements, and we want to use this as the cornerstone driver for change in hiring practices across the country. Just as the time came for safe working hours to become a right rather than a privilege, so too has the time come for flexible work arrangements, to ensure a safer and more well-rounded workforce.

The disparity between the number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous fellows in Australia is a worrisome statistic. CDT recently met with the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA) and we plan to make this a key area of advocacy over the coming year. We’d like to focus on vocational training opportunities and work with both AIDA and the training colleges to ensure that Indigenous trainees are supported sufficiently in their training programs to become fellows and mentors for other Indigenous doctors in training. A strong Indigenous workforce is a key element in improving Indigenous health across Australia, and we hope that by supporting trainees we can help to further drive change on this front.

As always, there’s so much to do and so little time to do it in. I look forward to keeping you informed over the next two years. Please feel free to contact me at with any matters that you want to discuss.

Until next time,


Dr John Zorbas

Chair, AMA Council of Doctors in Training