Founded in 1847, the American Medical Association (AMA) is one of the largest national physician organizations in the United States. Its mission is to advance the quality, safety, and effectiveness of medical care.
Its membership includes physicians and other health care professionals, students, and medical residents across the country, and it represents doctors in local, state, and federal politics.
The AMA has also served as a leading voice in the fight against health plan “gag clauses” that restrict doctors’ access to patient records and information. In 1996, it passed a resolution opposing such legislation and was instrumental in the passage of laws in 16 states prohibiting gag clauses in managed care plans.
When the AMA was first formed, it was a small group of doctors that were affiliated with various local and state medical associations. They were concerned that American medical schools had inconsistent standards of education and that many students were not taught the traditional’medical science’ required to be a doctor. They were also alarmed by the widespread use of ‘quack’ medicines, which relied on healing arts associated with mystic beliefs or unscientific precepts, such as homeopathy.
After the group reorganized in 1901, it took on a more national character and became a nonprofit corporation with permanent headquarters in Chicago. Its members were encouraged to join the national organization, rather than their local chapters, and it began to have an impact on the nation’s political and medical policies.
Despite the AMA’s clout in the national political arena, its member numbers continued to decline from the mid-1960s on. Though it had spent heavily on public outreach campaigns, a number of younger doctors found the organization’s membership fee too high for their budgets.
By the mid-1990s, less than 40 percent of American doctors were members of the AMA, and fewer than 35 percent of doctors aged 30 to 49 were members at that time. The organization was losing money, but revenue from its publishing arm and other for-profit ventures kept it afloat.
Today, the AMA has about 129,600 members in 50 states and D.C., and it is an umbrella organization for numerous medical societies, boards, and specialty groups, including the American Academy of Family Physicians. The AMA serves the needs of its members through educational programs, continuing medical education, and a variety of publications that offer discounts on CME courses and other practice-enhancing resources.
The AMA publishes the Journal of the American Medical Association, which is published 48 times per year, and 11 other journals that focus on medical specialties such as internal medicine, pediatrics, and psychiatry. The AMA is also the publisher of JAMA Network Open, which is an online journal that features original research.
While there are many medical organizations in the United States, the AMA remains the most influential and widely respected. The AMA is responsible for setting standards for medical school admission and determining whether graduates of those schools are competent to practice medicine. It has fought against ‘quack’ medicine and has backed efforts to improve the nation’s medical education system, among other things. The AMA has also been a strong advocate for women’s rights and against gender discrimination in the military, although it recently retracted its support of President Trump’s policy to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military.