Meet a member – Dr Michael Williams

AMA Queensland life member Dr Michael Williams dedicates his work as a paediatrician to support children’s health and improve access to paediatric care for Queenslanders living in rural and remote communities. He also takes a particular interest in environmental impacts on health.

People choose a career in medicine for many reasons, but a common theme is often a deep desire to help others – and Dr Williams is no exception. His initial interest in children’s health was sparked by observing his father's rewarding journey in medicine.

“My father was in medicine. I was interested in people, particularly children, and I had an interest in understanding and helping people with health problems,” Dr Williams said.

“I'm now a paediatrician.

“I've previously worked in Mackay but have relocated to Brisbane where I continue to do paediatrics and telehealth consulting in rural Queensland to support children in their communities and give better access to paediatric care.”

Leading a career driven by his passions and interests, Dr Williams has found himself fulfilled by his paediatric work and motivated through his involvement with climate and conservation groups.

Over the past 20 years, his concern about climate experts’ advice and the need to change practices in the community has grown. This is largely due to his experience working in the low-lying coastal city of Mackay, a region that is heavily suffering the impacts of climate change.

“Climate change is the elephant in the room, so to speak. It's the greatest threat to health of the century,” he said.

“I've always had a strong interest in the environment and particularly its impact on health. I was President of the Mackay Conservation Group for 28 years, so the opportunity to improve our health and the environment at the same time interests me.

“As health practitioners we need to place prevention first, as our sector contributes 7 per cent to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Those emissions are largely driven by fossil fuels, which are a health hazard. We need to reduce our contribution to something that's harming our people's health by reducing our own contribution to climate change.”

As a member of AMA Queensland’s Climate and Sustainability Working Group (CSWG) and the Queensland Committee of Doctors for the Environment Australia, he encourages active travel and educational opportunities between patients and doctors while advocating for the reduction of emissions at a hospital level.

“I've always promoted cycling or public transport, particularly cycling for commuting as a form of active travel to move away from a car-centric city or urban environment,” he said.

“An example of one thing that the Working Group has produced is a policy on active travel.

“The policy aims to encourage people to use public transport, cycling or walking instead of cars, which is better for their health and better for the environment, and so better for everyone's health through reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The AMA Queensland CSWG was established to bring knowledgeable and passionate members together to provide advice on policy proposals related to climate change and environmental sustainability.

Dr Williams’ efforts as part of the group include advocating for policy makers to acknowledge that climate change is in fact a health emergency and create tangible steps for positive change.

“The first step is to get acknowledgement from Queensland Health and the rest of the health sector that climate change is a health emergency. And particularly, to get Queensland Health, but also private hospitals, to account for their emissions so they know what they're contributing and then to set targets to reduce those emissions,” he said.

“Another step is to encourage all doctors to understand climate change and its impact on health, to then be able to advocate with their patients and colleagues about the importance of addressing climate change.

“Then, having doctors put in place improved practices to reduce emissions and contribution to climate change in their own practices and everyday lives.”

Dr Williams joined AMA Queensland in 1973 and, now 50 years on, is still proving his dedication to the profession and the betterment of healthcare for all Queenslanders. In 2022, he was awarded the AMA Queensland Rural Health Medal for his tireless efforts. 

“I was a junior doctor when I joined the AMA and I think it's always best to join and support an organisation that is trying to do good in the community or benefit the community,” he said.

“Also, it is an opportunity to advocate on issues that we understand and are passionate about.

“I'm a team player. I like to join the team and work with other people to the best outcomes possible.

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