The medical graduate and the doctor as professional and leader – a critique

Malcolm Parker1

1 School of Medicine, University of Queensland, Herston Road, Herston, Qld 4006,

Continuing accreditation of medical education providers by the Australian Medical Council (AMC) requires them to define their graduate outcomes in consistency with the AMC’s Graduate Outcome Statements, a component of its ‘Accreditation Standards for Primary Medical Education Providers and their Program of Study (2012)’. The fourth domain of AMC graduate outcomes is ‘Professionalism and Leadership: the medical graduate as a professional and leader’. Graduates are required to describe the principles and practice of professionalism and leadership in health care, and to demonstrate qualities of leadership. Curriculum content must ensure that graduates are “effectively prepared for their roles as professionals and leaders”.

These requirements concerning leadership are inconsistent with, because they go considerably further than, the AMC’s stated purpose of accreditation as ‘the recognition of medical programs that produce graduates competent to practise safely and effectively under supervision as interns in Australia or New Zealand, and with an appropriate foundation for lifelong learning and for further training in any branch of medicine’. This inconsistency reflects misconceptions concerning leadership in general and medical leadership in particular. The presentation explores the motivations for introducing the requirement that all graduates demonstrate qualities of leadership through the provision of leadership training to all, and reasons to think that leadership in medicine, as in other spheres, cannot be taught, owing to its core moral nature and social structure.


Malcolm Parker was the inaugural Head of the Discipline of Medical Ethics, Law and Professional Practice in the School of Medicine UQ, coordinating the development and teaching of courses in ethics, law & professional practice in the MBBS/MD program from 1994 to 2015. He is the immediate past president of AABHL, served on committees of the Medical Board of Queensland and the Medical Board of Australia, and was a long-serving director of the Postgraduate Medical Council of Queensland. He has published nationally and internationally in philosophy of medicine, bioethics, medical ethics, health law, and medical education.

About the Association

The Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law (AABHL) was formed in 2009.

It encourages open discussion and debate on a range of bioethical issues, providing a place where people can ask difficult questions about ideas and practices associated with health and illness, biomedical research and human values.

The AABHL seeks to foster a distinctive Australasian voice in bioethics, and provide opportunities for international engagement through its membership, journal and conferences.

Members come from all the contributing humanities, social science and science disciplines that make up contemporary bioethics.

Many members have cross-disciplinary interests and all seek to broaden the dialogues in which all members of the wider community ultimately have an interest.

The AABHL is a supportive, creative and challenging community that provides a rich source of continuing academic refreshment and renewal.

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