Rural GP elected as AMA(SA)'s first country-based President

Incoming Australian Medical Association (SA) President Dr John Williams says improving access to quality health care for all South Australians will be a major focus of his two-year term.

Dr Williams is a Port Lincoln general practitioner with special interests in emergency medicine, aged care, palliative care and skin cancer. Since graduating from the University of Adelaide he has practised in metropolitan Adelaide and the United Kingdom, before moving to a clinic in Port Lincoln in 2005.

A member of AMA(SA) Council since 2012, Dr Williams has a Diploma of Music (Jazz) from the University of Adelaide and performed at the Fringe in Adelaide in March 2023.

He was elected unopposed at the AMA(SA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) last night, after a two-year term as Vice President under the outgoing President, Dr Michelle Atchison.

Dr Atchison will present Dr Williams with the AMA(SA) President’s Medal at the AMA(SA) Gala Ball on Saturday, 20 May.

Dr Williams’ knowledge of rural medicine and the issues facing rural doctors and medical students have influenced AMA(SA) advocacy during his vice-presidency. Dr Williams worked closely with AMA(SA) CEO Dr Samantha Mead, Rural Doctors’ Association of SA President
Dr Peter Rischbieth and Federal AMA industrial officers to resolve lengthy negotiations over contracts for rural generalists, and has led AMA(SA)’s efforts to introduce the ‘single employer model’ to support junior doctors through their rural GP training.

Dr Williams has also contributed his understanding of the plight of rural doctors to AMA(SA) advocacy during regular meetings with Health Minister Chris Picton and other senior health personnel.

‘I have been privileged to be able to offer my expertise to help Michelle, Sam and
AMA(SA) Council resolve some complex issues relating to rural medicine and general practice,’ Dr Williams said.

‘But my presidency must and will be about much more than country medicine. We have a health system in crisis, with ramping and surgery waiting lists just two of the signals indicating how difficult it is for patients to receive the health care they need, when they need it.

‘Despite what we are told – or not told – about the pandemic, COVID-19 has not gone away, and clinicians must be armed with what we need to support patients with infections – possibly repeat infections – and the many and varied symptoms of Long COVID.

‘I am also looking forward to working with junior doctors and medical students to ensure they are supported as they should be, in their education and training and in their workplaces, to thrive in our thrilling, rewarding and challenging profession.’

The incoming Vice President is Associate Professor Peter Subramaniam, who has been Chair of AMA(SA) Council since 2021.

Assoc Prof Subramaniam is a vascular surgeon who continues to work in private practice while serving as a medical lead in surgery in the Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN) and as the chair of CALHN's Clinical Council. He was the chief surgical advisor to the SA Health Acute Response Committee established in March 2020 to coordinate health services during the pandemic and is a member of the SA Health Elective Surgery Taskforce.

After the AGM, Dr Williams thanked Dr Atchison for four years of unselfish, dedicated commitment to AMA(SA), its members and the South Australian community.

‘Michelle has provided outstanding leadership as Vice President and then President during a period dominated by the pandemic,’ Dr Williams said.

‘She has been the face and voice of an organisation looked to for trustworthy, informed, independent advice, working tirelessly and effectively for patients, our members and the broader healthcare community.

‘With Peter, AMA(SA) Council and the office, I want to build on the efforts of Michelle and her predecessors to improve health care for all South Australians.’

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