There are plenty of reasons why physicians should join the AMA

LETTER — Posted July 12, 2004

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Why is the AMA not supported by more of us? I believe that the AMA is our organization and requires our support. Having been an AMA member since I finished my residency in 1971, I finally attended a House of Delegates meeting last year. As an observer, I was impressed with the representation by delegates from the state medical societies and the democratic process involved.

Why, then, isn't membership higher? Is there a reason we are so reluctant to be a part of the solution rather than being a detractor to an organization that has served us well for over 150 years? And why are we so ready to accept the benefits of its hard work when we have not lifted a finger to assist in the work? I would agree that the AMA has not done everything right over the years. But considering the good the AMA has done with great principles and leadership, how can we, with clear conscience, avoid joining the work in progress for our patients and our profession?

Among the AMA's goals, when established in 1847, was to write a code of ethics and create a uniform and elevated standard for the medical degree. Your education and mine is a direct result of this effort. We are the products of a vastly improved system.

In the more than a century and a half since then, the AMA also has taken a leadership role in every aspect in the development of modern American medicine. It has revealed quackery, championed vaccination and achieved numerous public health victories.

In more recent years, the AMA fought for and got Medicare reimbursement concessions that, in Texas, translate to thousands of dollars per physician; that ought to pay their AMA dues for years!

Since insurance companies base some rates on Medicare fees, stabilizing these fees can hold off insurance rate changes thus creating a multiplier effect.

The modern AMA, of course, also has pushed for other necessary improvements -- including tort reform, medical savings accounts, improved due process for physicians. I will stop now, but there are scores of other initiatives the AMA has undertaken on our behalf.

Perhaps you feel your specialty society does a good enough job. My specialty society (the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons), with 15,000 members, is good but doesn't hold a candle to the more than 200,000 in the AMA. Just think what would happen if, for example, when a senator asks how many doctors the AMA represented, it could say 500,000. Imagine how strong the AMA would be if we all joined.

Christopher S. Chenault, MD, president, Travis County Medical Society, Austin, Texas

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/07/12/edlt0712.htm.

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