AAAGP PRESIDENTIAL REPORT
TOWNSVILLE, 9 OCTOBER 2000
AAAGP was formed in 1983. The catalyst was Professor Neil Carson. Its aim was to encourage the academic side of general practice and to represent those engaged in general practice academic pursuits. It has had cyclical ups and downs and these have been related to the leadership and work capacity of the President and the enthusiasm of the Executive. 1997 marked the absolute nadir of the organisation. There was not a single communication of the Executive and the President failed even to call an Annual General Meeting.
I stood for President at the end of 1997 to try to resuscitate AAAGP. I was the only person to stand for office. Consequently for 1998 AAAGP had a President but no office bearers. At the end of 1998 there was a proper AGM with the election of office bearers.
It is probable that the last 18 months has been the most active and effective in the short history of AAAGP. Your executive was quick to act on what we considered to be misguided decisions by DHAC over research funding which were being acted upon even before Peter Mudge had written his report. Alison Ward and I spent many hundreds of hours in putting forward a view which has now resulted in infrastructure research funding for the 11 University Departments of General Practice. Many other people and organisations became involved in this but as a result of the debate initiated by the Executive of AAAGP. Prior to this the organisation was unknown to the current DHAC and to the Commonwealth Minister for Health and his advisers.
Our members have not been good at supporting AAAGP. We were not represented on the General Practice Strategy Review Group nor on the General Practice Training Group. Academics who were on those groups did not see fit to ensure that we were included in the peak advisory groups to the Commonwealth Minister of Health, GPPAC and GPTEC. It has take two years of negotiations for our organisation to get representation on the General Practice Partnership Advisory Council. This is a situation which I would not imagine happening to any of the other academic disciplines within medicine.
Other achievements in the last 12 months have been a small consultancy to develop a standard approach to data recording for the Rural Undergraduate Steering Committee and the John Flynn Scholarships. A research meeting in Hobart prior to the GPEP conference was effectively lobbied for and organised by Dr Sam Heard. The setting up of an Egroup again by Sam to enable better communication and democratic elections.
After many years of negotiation there is representation on the RACGP Education Group by Professors Doris Young and Leon Piterman. Dimity Pond is involving the membership in a research priorities setting. Jane Gunn has initiated and carried through with the development of a travelling fellowship funded by AAAGP. The first recipient is Dr Marie Pirotta who will be furnishing us with a report from her fellowship. I congratulate her on being the first recipient.
In short, we are now known to other general practice bodies and we are consulted and have set up a relationship of trust with opinion leaders in the Department of Health and Aged Care. We are seen as a body which contains a lot of intellectual capital and experience who can be helpful to the decision making processes of other bodies.
The downside for the organisation is that there are only a handful of people who have been active in its administration. I would like to give a particular vote of thanks to our Treasurer Mark Nelson who has not only looked after our membership subscriptions and finances but has also taken it upon himself to do the onerous work of getting a constitution into order so that we may proceed to become an incorporated body. I have already mentioned Sam Heard who organised the Tasmanian conference and our communication system and who will be taking over as Secretary of the association. Geoff Mitchell has been an enthusiastic and effective participant in the work of the committee. Alison Ward, as ever, has kept her eye on the ball of what it is that the organisation should be doing which as I have already mentioned is to encourage the education, research and scholarly endeavour of general practice and to ensure that there is a sustainable infrastructure of academically minded doctors for the future. Jonathan Newbury, our Editor, has been somewhat superseded by Egroup technology but he has always been available when called upon.
Another downside has been that our organisation has not been free of the disease which has long afflicted and damaged general practice in Australia, namely, the politics of personalities and a preference for fission rather than fusion. Hopefully the level of energy that some people put into these activities will in the future be channelled into positive contributions on behalf of AAAGP.
My last disappointment has been the small number of people who have cast a vote in these elections. 30 out of 114 financial members attests either to apathy or to a failed Egroup system. Even the American election, with two far less attractive candidates will manage a 50% vote of its constituents. I believe in the necessity for an alert, active and influential AAAGP. That is why I revived it and put so much energy into its activities. A majority of those who bothered to vote clearly require a higher level of energy and a different style of leadership. The two changes to the committee for 2001 are the key positions of President and Secretary. Chris Del Mar has been elected President and Sam Heard has accepted the role of Secretary. I wish them well in progressing the aims and rising profile of AAAGP.