Raising your voice and medicine for 175+ years

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In the early days of the AMA, when the idea of ​​a national medical organization was new and few knew if it would last, the leaders of that organization wisely began by carefully defining the ethical standards that should guide our profession. . It was a signal to physicians around the world that the AMA was ushering in a more responsible and compassionate era for medicine.

To create the Code of medical ethics, as it would later be known, AMA leaders tapped into history – a language and concepts that emerged in the 5th century BC with the great Greek physician Hippocrates. the Coded would be updated and modernized over the years to keep pace with advances in medical practice, but the fundamental principles written in 1847, which address the responsibilities of physicians to their patients, have remained largely unchanged.

As WADA celebrates its 175th anniversary on May 7, I have reflected on key inflection points for our organization. Coded one of our first major acts, it is clear that our leaders cemented the position and reputation of the AMA as a beacon of principle and guide for medicine and set the tone for all that was to follow.

Since our founding in 1847, the AMA has been the powerful ally of physicians in patient care, and we continually strive to live up to our noble mission of promoting the art and science of medicine and the improvement of public health. Remember that the AMA emerged at a time when quackery was rampant and widespread, when many unregulated medical schools failed to graduate qualified doctors, and when there was a patchwork of medical journals whose information were neither reliable nor credible.

This dysfunction fueled the creation of the Code of medical ethicsand soon after pushed the AMA to create the Journal of the American Medical Associationnow known as JAMA®with research also widely published under the 12 JAMA Network™ reviews. Both remain cornerstones of medical practice today, anchoring the AMA’s extensive work in science, evidence and respect for the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship. By creating a council to educate the public about the dangers of quackery and unproven cures in our early years, the AMA is committed to protecting the health of the public.

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Through policy and advocacy, the AMA has led many of the greatest public health achievements of the past century: from supporting universal childhood vaccines and launching a war on public smoking, to opposing acts of discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients. More recently, the AMA has supported the expansion of health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act and other safety net programs, and we have implemented policies to combat the systemic racism in health care and other forms of discrimination in medicine.

Today, we fulfill our mission in three important ways: by working to remove barriers that interfere with patient care, by leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and address public health crises, and by guiding the future of medicine through innovation and improved education and training of physicians. education. In short, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice on the issues that matter most to them, leveraging the power of physicians’ experience and expertise for government and health care stakeholders.

One of the great strengths of the AMA is our commitment to an internal democratic process that ensures a variety of perspectives, vigorous debate and good policy-making. Twice a year, the AMA convenes its House of Delegates, with representatives from more than 190 state and specialty medical societies. This legislative body develops and adopts policies on health care issues that influence AMA advocacy and medical practices in the United States and around the world. By raising the concerns of physicians and speaking on behalf of the entire profession, the AMA has a significant impact on government agencies, Congress, state legislatures and the courts.

This has been invaluable over the past two years as we have provided guidance, support and leadership during one of the most challenging times for healthcare in a century. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the AMA has fought for personal protective equipment, financial resources, and regulatory flexibility for telehealth on behalf of physicians, and we’ve helped lead a national effort. to build support for COVID-19 vaccines and counter widespread misinformation.

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As we celebrate WADA’s many contributions to science and public health, we also recognize that there are periods in our long history of which we are not proud. At the time of our founding, AMA leaders made the decision to exclude black women and doctors from our ranks, contributing to a health care system that is now plagued by inequities and injustices for patients and doctors.

In 2008, WADA signed a three-year contract study on the racial divide in organized medicine and publicly apologized for our organization’s past discriminatory practices against black physicians, an effort we have called a “small first step toward healing and reconciliation.” It’s a journey of reflection that continues today with a company-wide commitment to right the wrongs of the past.

Working in partnership with other leading healthcare organizations, we are educate physicians on the legacy and impact of structural racism in health care and on advocating for policies and programs to eliminate health inequities. We’ve created a Center for Health Equity to lead these efforts, which range from creating a new Medical Justice in Advocacy Fellowship to helping launch the national program.”Release the pressurecampaign to improve the heart health of black women.

The AMA’s history is complicated, but one constant for 175 years has been our commitment to providing the tools, support and resources physicians need to provide the best patient care. This would not have been possible without the hard work of generations of AMA employees and millions of Member physicians over the years who have dedicated their careers to answering every moment of medicine, improving the health of communities. and the whole nation. In fact, AMA membership is at its highest level since 1996 and has grown for 11 consecutive years.

We are proud of this work. We are touched by the trust doctors have placed in us, from the uncertain early days of 1847. By defining what it means to be a doctor, by uniting the profession around a common set of ethics and standards, we have cast the foundations of modern medicine. We made a promise to patients and physicians that we still keep today, and every day to come.

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