American Medical Association

The American Medical Association (AMA) is the professional organization of physicians in the United States. Besides providing a group voice to physicians,it promotes the art and science of medicine and improve public health.

To reach this goal, the AMA devotes much of its resources to gathering, synthesizing and distributing current information on health and the practice of medicine, to setting standards for medical ethics, to fostering medical education, and to serving as an advocate for physicians and patients.

The AMA was founded in 1847, and today encompasses approximately 297,000 members in 54 state groups. Its headquarters are in Chicago, with additional offices in New York City and Washington, D.C.

In today's complex medical world, ethical issues confront practitioners almost daily. As technology speeds ahead, the need for ethical guidance becomes even more important. The AMA provides ethical guidance to physicians through its "Principals of Medical Ethics" and "Fundamental Elements of the Patient-Physician Relationship." In addition, the AMA's Code of Medical Ethics is regarded as the standard for professional conduct for physicians in the United States, both by the physicians themselves and by the courts.

Through these standards, the AMA places the patients' interests first and protects the patients' right to full disclosure while guiding physicians on suchtechnological advances as genetic engineering.

The AMA monitors and supports technological advances in medicine. In additionto working with government agencies to make effective treatments quickly available, the AMA is active in disseminating information about new drug development. It co-sponsors the council that names all new US-developed drugs, and also has a programs that monitors any discrepancies between scientific findings and drug use in practice.

Through its many publications, the AMA can quickly and easily disseminate information about current advances. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is the world's most widely read medical journal, publishedin 11 languages. In addition to JAMA, the AMA publishes American Medical News, a weekly update on social and economic health news, and 10 monthly medical journals in such specialties as family medicine, internal medicine, opthamology, surgery, otolaryngology, and pediatrics.

With such a wealth of information available, it makes sense then that the AMAalso has an extensive library available to members. It also provides a greatdeal of current medical information on its web sits ( Theweb site can be accessed by physicians, medical students and patients who areseeking information about particular conditions.

The AMA is also a powerful lobbying force in Washington, D.C. Among the issues that the AMA takes special interest in are the reform of Medicare, monitoring the development of managed care, and funding medical education. The AMA isalso active in the courts, both providing legal assistance to physicians atthe local level and working at the national level to influence medicine-related laws. For example, in 1993 the AMA blocked a movement to increase physicians' DEA registration fees four-fold (the DEA registration is what allows a physician to prescribe drugs), and in 1983 worked to force the recognition of aperson's right to refuse medical treatment.

Members of the AMA meet twice a year to discuss concerns and set policy as delegates to the national convention. Delegates are elected to represent specialty medical societies, state medical societies, the armed forces, the US public health service, medical students, organized medical staff, medical schools, residents, women physicians, young physicians, international medical graduates, minority physicians, and older physicians.

The decisions made at these national conventions have tremendous impact on American health care practices. For example, at the 1999 national conference, members voted to "unionize." Although not strictly intended as a movement to form a labor organization such as the AFL-CIO, the members decided it was necessary that they band together to present an solid front in dealing with managed care providers. Since the advent of managed care, physicians' salaries have flattened out, and many physicians believe it is managed care that is cutting into their earnings.

On another front, AMA action through the national convention forced insurersfrom imposing so-called "drive-through deliveries," which sent a woman home too soon after having a baby, the physicians believed. Now new mothers and their infants receive at least a two-day stay in the hospital after birth.

In addition to professional education and a powerful group voice, the AMA offers physicians resources for managing their practices and their personal lives, ranging from medical and pharmaceutical supplies to hospital indemnity insurance to personal financial services.

The AMA's home office is located at 515 North State St., Chicago, IL, 60610.

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