The Relevance of the AMA

14 Mar 2017

A friend of mine has a nice and simple saying about relevance: "Your relevance is inversely proportional to the number of words it takes to describe what you do". “I build houses”, “I grow food”, “I heal people”. These are essential vocations. “I coordinate working groups of key stakeholders to identify synergies that allow for further strategic analysis of the current fiscal environment in the Antarctic regional congress”. Not so much.

So to this end, we have simplified the mission statement of the AMA Council of Doctors in Training (CDT): “To represent the interests of doctors in training in Australia”. This simple statement encompasses a broad number of objectives. We expect CDT to lead on issues of medical education & training, doctor health & wellbeing, and representative advocacy. We collaborate with colleges and government on workforce issues and on equity & diversity in the profession. We contribute to the discussion on public health position statements and on the development of e-Health across Australia. If it has to do with doctors in training, chances are we’re working on it.

Every year, CDT kicks off this work with our annual Trainee Forum and our first CDT meeting. The Trainee Forum is an event dedicated to engaging all colleges and other doctor in training stakeholders around a series of issues that affect doctors in training. This year we discussed support for Indigenous trainees in achieving specialist qualifications, recognising that Indigenous Australians are ten times less likely to be represented in the medical workforce. We discussed public-private partnerships, and the issues and opportunities they pose for training our residents and registrars. We talked about training disputes, and the respective roles of trainees, supervisors, employers, colleges and medical defence organisations in these disputes. We talked about diversity in medicine and the ways that diversity creates agile and healthy workforces. As always, we had our trainee soapbox session; a session designed to allow trainees from all colleges to discuss issues present in their specialty training specifically. This sessions is priceless, as it allows us to identify major or upcoming issues across the country where the AMA can be involved to move towards a solution. While this year’s issues were quite different across all colleges, there were common issues around maternal leave and flexible work arrangements in all colleges. The next few months will see me meeting with trainees from all major colleges to identify how we can solve some of these issues.

The very next day we have our first CDT meeting for the year. A quick word on structure: The AMA is a federated organisation. CDT is a Federal body, where representatives from all State and Territory AMAs come together to work on common issues. It should be no surprise to those of you who follow CDT to know that the majority of the day was spent discussing trainee well-being. Recent events in training have made it clear that trainees are falling through ever widening gaps in our training and employment, and we have made it our highest priority for the year, working towards a national strategy to create healthier workplaces and training programs across the country. We also discussed a number of position statements on prevocational medical education, on pre-internships, on training disputes and on best practices for assessment. It was a busy day which has set up a busy year for the group!

Or course, this work doesn’t mean too much if you aren’t in the room to see it. Another core issue for the day was media and communication. I believe one of our biggest failings is our ability to communicate with the broader membership base, and this is an issue that we are now working on in the coming months to establish better ways for you to be aware of the work of CDT and to become involved, whether your passion is education, well-being or the workforce. It’s in this vein that I hope to prove the relevance of the AMA to you over the coming year. The work I see done behind the scenes is essential to the profession. Our challenge for the year is to make this work more visible and more involved. After all, with over 30,000 of us, it makes sense to be as informed and as engaged as we can be. We’re not the future of the profession. We are the current profession.

Until next time,


Dr John Zorbas

Chair, AMA Council of Doctors in Training