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    The Orange Guide: Your one-stop shop to learn everything about AMSA!
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    First Council 2015 policies now open for comments!
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2015 Orange Guide

What’s a Convention? What Projects to AMSA run? Is the AMSA Academy and Starfleet Academy kinda the same?

More importantly, what is an AMSA?

Screenshot 2015-02-24 21.14.34Got you covered pal! AMSA’s Orange Guide was put together to provide students with a concise, 10 page introduction to the world of AMSA and everything it does as an organisation. From projects, to intiatives, to events, learn about everything AMSA has to offer to enrich your medical school life!

AMSA’s Orange Guide is available digitally here!

Alternatively, we have also produced an even shorter super-concised AMSA Orange Guide called the AMSA Mini Orange Guide, which is available here.

Have a good read and if you have anymore questions, feel free to contact the Executive directly here!

AMSA Blog: Medical indemnity insurance – It’s important to medical students and how to engage with providers

By Dr Patrick Mahar 

Medical indemnity insurance is rarely high on the list of priorities of medical students. Exams, relationships, assignments, food, money. These things tend to come first. Indemnity providers tend to provide sponsorship for events and balls during medical school but, if my experience was any example, indemnity insurance rarely rates more than a few seconds of thought beyond that. My friends are junior doctors and have letters from their indemnity providers, still in the plastic sleeves unopened, piled up on their work desks from 6-18 months ago.

The purpose of this brief piece is to suggest that, in hindsight, medical indemnity providers can and should be a serious consideration even in medical school. More than that, medical students, by virtue of being members of medical indemnity organisations, can have a significant influence on the corporate structure and function of their providers which may impact their future transition when they become junior doctors.

As a medical student my first encounter and exposure to medical indemnity organisations involved being approached by representatives from a number of providers during O-week at university. We were asked to sign up for free. Of course we did (amongst things like the Gourmet Pie Review Society (GPRS) and the Association for Feminist Marxist Vampires (AFMV)). Basically we signed up to anything that was thrust in front of our faces. Given there was no cost to myself or my friends, we signed up to four or five medical indemnity organisations at the same time.

The number of organisations we were members with dropped off substantially when we became interns and residents and were charged a fee for being involved. During internship some providers still offered indemnity insurance for free, but as time passed (as we expected eventually), we started paying premiums as our incomes increased. We had to start making decisions as to which indemnity provider to stay with. As a graduate of the combined medicine and law program, I had always taken a keen interest in the medical indemnity world.

Having medical indemnity insurance is a requirement for registration as a medical practitioner in Australia, and there are a number of factors involved in deciding who to use. Often cost is a primary determinant, but the type of services offered and the quality of that service and how it matches your needs at the various stages in your career will also need to be taken into account.

Often the importance of medical indemnity on a doctor’s career is overlooked by clinicians who, appropriately, are more concerned with their patients and career progress than the health of their insurance provider. However, medical indemnity serves more purposes than simply insuring you if and when things go wrong. Medical indemnity providers play a critical role in policy making when it comes to clinical practice, which affects doctors, both senior and junior, as well as medical students’ professional obligations. Many students and clinicians would be surprised to learn how critical the medical insurance industry is in the regulation of clinical practice (and just as importantly, acting as advocates to ensure clinical practice is not too over-regulated by third parties), and acting as a conduit for and between organisations such as the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Australian Health Practitioner Regulation agency (AHPRA), the Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA), the specialty colleges, medical schools and other stakeholders.

Engaging with your medical indemnity provider as a medical student can be of enormous importance. This is especially important where things might be going wrong, and you might be in need of consulting medicolegal support (in which case, it is often best to engage earlier rather than later).

Apart from anything else, it provides medical students the opportunity to engage with the various medical indemnity providers, to evaluate their level of service, and decide which ones are right for them before they have to ‘narrow the field’ and choose one indemnity provider as their career progresses and the stakes are raised (rather than having the luxury of four or five without any cost).

As well as this, however, medical students are members of indemnity organisations and frequently have voting entitlements as to the leadership and therefore corporate function and structure of the indemnity organisation. Over the next week, most medical students who are members will be sent a voting form for the Board of Directors for MDA National, one of the larger medical indemnity providers in Australia. No matter who you vote for, I strongly urge all medical students to take a few minutes out of their day to consider the nominees and applicants, and make their vote count, both for this electoral process and that of any other indemnity provider you are involved with in the future. The leadership of the medical indemnity providers can have an impact on the providers’ policies, which can have a flow on effect that influences medical students, and indirectly, the working lives of junior doctors, which you all will be soon.

Medical indemnity article for AMSA

Dr Patrick Mahar OAM is as a dermatology registrar and medicolegal expert. He is a graduate of the combined Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery & Bachelor of Law degrees from Monash University. He has a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from the Melbourne Business School, and a Doctor of Medical Science from the University of Melbourne entitled ‘Determining professional standards in the context of medical negligence, professional practice and informed consent in Victoria.’ He is currently enrolled in a PhD with Deakin University evaluating mortality outcomes in burns and burn-related diseases and is a member of the Australasian College of Legal Medicine and a committee member of the Medicolegal Society of Victoria.

He previously sat on the President’s Medical Liaison Council for MDA National from 2011-2013, and was a co-facilitator of their Medicolegal Minefield forum in 2013. He is currently a nominee for the MDA National Mutual Board of Directors in the upcoming elections managed by the Western Australian Electoral Commission

Review: Medivention Tendon Hammer


The Medivention tendon hammer is a compact tool that fits easily into any pocket. Once extended, the hammer operates and feels similarly to any other tendon hammer with the rubber head having a nice weighted feel. Unfortunately the extendable nature of the shaft means it doesn’t feel as robust as say a non-extendable metal shaft, however this is a small payoff for something that is extremely portable. Indeed you shouldn’t be hitting the patient so hard that this would ever be a problem, although clearly the tester was not able to test the long term durability of the extendable shaft.

Don’t make the same mistake the reader did – a collar locking mechanism prevents the head snapping back too easily in the parallel plane of the shaft. Without utilising this mechanism the head snaps back too easily whilst using the hammer clinically.

So in all, the Medivention tendon hammer is a tendon hammer that fulfils all the requirements necessary of the tool with all the added benefits of portability. Anyone who uses a tendon hammer regularly on the wards should consider this alternative.

For more details on the Medivention tendon hammer, click here.

This product was reviewed by Timothy Martin, Monash University.

Press Release: Medical students call for improvements to refugee policy in Government submission 

Media Release
16 February 2015

In a recent submission to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) strongly recommended an end to mandatory and indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers. Furthermore, AMSA called for the reinstatement of an independent health advisory body.

“AMSA reiterates our firm belief that all communities have a right to the best attainable health, as set out in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, said AMSA President James Lawler.

“We acknowledge the complexity of issues surrounding the health of refugees and asylum seekers, but current government policy does not take into account the unique medical needs of this demographic.

“There is a vast pool of evidence, both local and international, demonstrating a direct link between increasingly punitive detention policies and poor mental health outcomes.

“Seeking asylum is a basic human right and we continue to be perplexed by the Australian Government’s disregard for the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951, to which Australia is a ratified party.

The World Economic Forum claims mental health conditions are the greatest threat to global GDP, ahead of any other type of health condition, noting the dramatic impact on productivity and quality of life.

“It is indefensible that Australia, as a developed nation, takes this punitive approach, violating human rights, exacerbating the health problems of vulnerable individuals and burdening the health system. Evidence shows there are economically viable and sustainable alternatives that optimise health outcomes, and we need to be pursuing these.

“AMSA is encouraged by the Government’s acceptance of submissions and consultation with community groups, however, we are concerned that these recommendations will yet again fall on deaf ears.

The full submission can be found here.


Media Contact:

Maria Bilal


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Press Release: Medical students concerned by Government withholding Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services

Media Release:

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) urges the Federal Government to release the Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services to the public. It offers the potential to vastly improve the mental health of young Australians.

“Youth mental health is an area where there is significant progress to be made – in Australia there is no sectoral leader on student mental health, but the building blocks are there.” said AMSA President, James Lawler.

“AMSA is encouraged by the Government’s measures to better understand the existing mental health services and programmes, and assess their efficiency and effectiveness in supporting individuals experiencing mental ill health. However, withholding this information limits the enormous benefits the Review could have.

“The Review was provided to the Federal Government last November, making the 2015-2016 Budget the ideal time to act on the findings and invest in severely underfunded mental health services.

AMSA highlighted Youth Mental Health as a key priority in a Pre-Budget Submission and urged the Federal Government to ensure the 2015-2016 Budget invests in mental health services for Australia’s youth.

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that 26% of 16-24 year olds, the university student demographic, experience a mental health disorder within a 12 month period – the highest proportion of any age group.

Mr Lawler points out “mental illnesses are an even greater threat to university students, largely due to the onset of these disorders during a critical developmental period.

“The university environment provides an excellent and hitherto neglected opportunity to optimise the health of a large proportion of the community; setting them on a more positive trajectory for the rest of their lives.

“We implore the Australian government to release the findings of the review and to put the needs of the Australian community before the political desire to achieve surplus.”

The entire Pre-Budget Submission can be found here.


Media Contact:
Maria Bilal


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Press Release: Fee deregulation threatens future rural doctors

Media Release
03 February 2015

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) expresses concern that the proposed Higher Education Reforms will exacerbate maldistribution of doctors in rural settings and areas of workforce shortage.

“Fee deregulation will translate into inequitable access to tertiary education, but a ripple effect will be decreased access to primary healthcare services in rural areas” said AMSA President James Lawler.

“It is important for the Government to recognise the Higher Education Reform will affect more than just students – there are detrimental follow-on effects for rural populations who already suffer from medical practitioner shortages.”

A study released in January by the University of Queensland Rural Clinical School concluded medical students with a rural background are more likely to practise in regional and remote areas.

“Estimates indicate that a 4 year medical degree will go from costing a student $40,954 to between $149, 000 and $227,000. This will drastically limit our ability to recruit students from remote and regional backgrounds,” said Mr Lawler.

“Given the poorer health outcomes and decreased access to health services, we should be investing more towards improving the health of rural populations – fee deregulation is a step in the wrong direction.

“There is good evidence from the US and NZ that high student debt will deter students from practicing in general practice and remote locations, which are precisely the two greatest areas of need in the Australian healthcare system.

“Rural doctors provide a much larger range of services than their urban counterparts, as a result, a reduction in doctors will be felt much more in a rural community.

AMSA commends the government on their commitment to investing in rural health workforce but urges them not to negate any previous gains by pricing talented rural students out of the health workforce.

AMSA further calls on the government to abandon this legislation, or significantly modify it to mandate a cap on student contribution to medical education.

Media contact:
Maria Bilal

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Press Release: Medical students pleased by Medicare rebate cut backflip

Media Release
15 January 2015

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) congratulates Health Minister Sussan Ley on the leadership she has shown in taking the $20 Medicare rebate cut for shorter GP consultation off the table and flagging broader consultation with the health sector.

AMSA President, James Lawler, said today this was the right decision by the Coalition Government.

“Sussan Ley has only recently taken over the health portfolio, but is already showing the leadership required for the role ,” Mr Lawler said.  “She is looking to start the consultation process which should have occurred in the first place.”

Mr Lawler noted that the Government still intended to go ahead with a $5 Medicare rebate cut for general patients in July, which medical students continue to oppose.

“Primary health care is the most efficient part of the health system. It keeps individuals and communities healthy, and ensures many do not require more costly hospital care, ” Mr Lawler said.

Mr Lawler was especially critical of the message that the Federal Government was sending to medical students interested in taking up general practice in the future by freezing the Medicare rebate until July 2018.

“By chronically underfunding general practice, the Government is making it less likely that graduating medical students and junior doctors will consider general practice as a speciality”, said Mr Lawler.

The AMSA President said that in the past the Government had shown a disappointing unwillingness to consult with doctors, medical students and the wider health sector on its proposed changes to the health system, and he looked forward to a fresh approach from the newly-appointed Minister of Health, Sussan Ley.

“Sussan Ley has a great opportunity to begin a new chapter in the Government’s approach to health care, and AMSA looks forward to a close relationship that is built upon open communication and genuine consultation on the views of medical students, ” Mr Lawler said.

Media contact:
Brian Fernandes
0433 035 653

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PG triple what?

Kunal Portrait photo

Kunal Luthra is AMSA Vice President (External) in 2014

This post was written to serve as a brief primer for medical students on this issue.

One of the forgotten casualties of the Federal Budget this year was the abolition of the Prevocational General Practice Placements Program (PGPPP, usually referred to in speech as ‘PG triple P’), for reasons of expense.

That’s a bit of a mouthful.

But it’s a cut that alarmed AMSA, and has had flow-on effects that have subsequently alarmed medical students around the country. Since the announcement, AMSA has consistently been speaking to Government, Opposition and the Department of Health about this particular program.

So what is PGPPP? It provided rotations in general practice for prevocational trainee doctors. In some states, these were largely PGY2+ trainees, or graduates who were two or more years out from medical school. In South Australia and Victoria, however, approximately half the PGPPP rotations were for PGY1 trainees – interns. For many interns, the PGPPP placement in a community general practice would make up one of the five rotations they would undertake over the course of their internship. Removing PGPPP removed this rotation.

Broadly speaking, this has had two major consequences:

  1. PGPPP was one of the few ways medical graduates could actually gain exposure to general practice, and particularly rural general practice, before entering specialty training. We know already that one of the keys to resolving Australia’s rural doctor maldistribution is getting more interested young doctors out into rural communities after graduation. Removing PGPPP creates a gap in the ‘rural training pathway’ the government should be hoping to engineer. We also know that we should be encouraging more graduates to take up general practice, and so removing exposure to general practice for trainees is a backwards step.
  1. In the short-term, there has been a cut in the number of internships offered in states that used PGPPP to fund internships. In late May, following the Budget, the following announcement was placed on the SA MET (South Australian Medical Education and Training) website:

“In 2014 the PGPPP funded 23 intern positions in South Australia for a total of 278 intern positions, plus 16 PGY2+ positions. With the loss of this funding, the number of intern positions in South Australia for 2015 will be reduced proportionately.  Final numbers are still being determined, and will be dependent on the accreditation of additional emergency medicine terms in public hospitals”

Without the rotations provided and funded by the Commonwealth-run PGPPP program, the onus was on state-funded public hospitals to make up for the resultant gaps in the intern year. The funding and capacity at a state-level in South Australia is limited. If the hospitals could not add more rotations, the number of internships would have to be cut. And that is what has happened.

This is a difficult environment to advocate for more funding, but AMSA, and particularly a group of committed and passionate medical student advocates in South Australia, are continuing to lobby all levels of Government, as well as state health departments, about this important issue.

Kunal Luthra is AMSA Vice President (External) for 2014 – you can follow him on twitter @luthrak_ or get in touch by email.

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