Collegiality in the medical profession
The AMA is the peak body representing the medical profession. But what is a profession?
The Professional Standards Council describes a profession as a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards, and possess special knowledge and skills in a widely-recognised body of learning derived from research, education, and training at a high level.
Importantly, however, a profession is also prepared to apply this knowledge and exercise these skills in the interest of others.
We apply our knowledge and skills to teaching medical students and training our successors.
We apply our knowledge and skills to health promotion and preventative health.
And we apply our knowledge and skills to advocate for better health services and better access to health services.
This is what being a doctor means. It is part of our professionalism, and that is why we make choices like the AMA did in opposing the GP co-payment. It is the right thing for the profession. And it is the right thing for our patients.
When we are talking about professionalism and what it means to be a profession, we have to start by talking about looking after those starting out in our profession.
I started my medico-political career as an angry medical student.
I saw that Governments were all too willing to use medical students and training as a political issue. Like all doctors, I am concerned for our current medical students and trainees.
The doctor I am is a factor of the training and support I received as a medical student and a trainee.
I want the doctors and students of the future to benefit from this same strong collegiate training.
I don’t want students standing five or six deep around every patient, struggling for clinical experience. Our students and our patients deserve better.
We know medical students and trainees are already struggling to access required levels of clinical exposure.
Our trainees and students are already anxious about whether they will be able to get a training place and a job.
That is why the AMA, AMA WA, and AMSA went public with strong criticism of the Federal and West Australian Governments’ decision to fund a new medical school at Curtin University.
The funding would be far better spent providing training places for students already in the system.
Another quality of a profession, and this must be particularly true of the medical profession, is that individuals care for each other as colleagues.
In recent months, we have seen coverage of the impact on our colleagues who have not received that care and support, or who have been directly sexually harassed or bullied.
On behalf of the AMA, I say again that sexual harassment and bullying are unacceptable.
While the issues of harassment have been prominent in the media, achieving cultural change is not just about stopping bullying and harassment.
It is about promoting female leaders and championing gender equality.
It is about ensuring that all doctors – male and female – can access appropriate parental leave and, if they wish, flexible work arrangements.
We will also continue our role in supporting doctors and students at an individual level.
I have said many times that some of my proudest moments as a State AMA President were when the AMA advocated successfully on behalf of individuals - particularly when they find themselves in difficult circumstances, often not of their own making.
This has also been a core part of my Federal Presidency – providing a voice for people who, for whatever reason, do not have a voice that is heard by our political leaders, the public, and the media
This is an important role for the AMA, and one we will continue.
Published: 15 Jun 2015