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Medical Council chairman Dr John Adams (60) made the ''timely'' decision over the summer holiday period.
A new chairman will be elected on February 18 at the next meeting of the council.
Dr Adams, the associate dean of student affairs at the Dunedin School of Medicine, said the decision gave him more time for Dunedin-based work. He had discussed stepping up his University of Otago duties with the department.
He also continues to practice part-time as a psychiatrist.
He said he was pleased with the regulatory initiatives and strategies he helped steer during his time at the helm of the national organisation.
''I haven't been an advocate for more regulation, but I'm certainly an advocate for regulation when it is needed, and when the profession needs that external structure.''