Masks on, dancing off at AMA conference

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By Geir O'Rourke

25 Jul 2022

Dancing will be off the agenda when the AMA gathers for its national conference in Sydney this week, with the gala dinner dancefloor becoming the latest victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other COVID-safe measures include free face masks and hand sanitiser at this weekend’s meeting, the first face-to-face AMA conference since 2019.

AMA vice president Dr Chris Moy says masks will also be required at all times except when eating and drinking.

“With case numbers as they are, it’s been a tricky decision whether to go ahead with a face-to-face at all so we’ve had to have some restrictions,” he tells the limbic.

“But given we are also holding a vote on the next federal leadership team, it’s probably important to give the candidates to meet members in-person.”

The AMA has stressed the entire conference as well as the concurrent social events have been designed to enable social distancing, with hygiene precautions in place including free masks and hand sanitiser.

Seating in conference rooms and at the gala dinner will allow social distancing and the meals, conference drinks and gala dinner are being staged in large, ventilated open spaced areas, it says.

Virtual attendance is also available.

It has also claimed that while there won’t be dancing at the gala dinner as a precaution “that won’t stop the fun or our ability to chat about the pressing issues we face as a profession”.

One person likely to be impacted by the ban is former AMA president Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, whose ABBA-style boogaloo has been a feature of the association’s gala dinners for some two decades.

The Melbourne GP said he’d miss the opportunity to show off his moves, but understood the need for restrictions.

“It’s been a staple part of the national conference but we’ve not had COVID-19 before, so we have to move with the times,” he said.

“On the other hand, some members’ dancing is definitely worse than others so it might be a good thing given quality of several attempts I’ve seen over the years.”

Dr Haikerwal politely declined to identify the worst culprits but he did single out one high-profile member for praise.

“Professor Saxon Smith, the dermatologist and former AMA (NSW) president, has some good moves. In fact I used to call him twinkle toes.”

Speakers at this year’s national conference would include Dr Anthony Fauci, from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, AMC president Professor Kate Leslie and Medical Board of Australia chair Dr Anne Tonkin.

Commonwealth CMO Professor Paul Kelly, Professor Brendan Murphy, Health Minister Mark Butler and his opposition counterpart Anne Ruston will also give talks.

Tickets are available here.

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