What Is a Doctor Association?

A doctor association is a professional organization or learned society developed to promote high standards of medical education, practice and research, as well as to provide the community with information on health care issues. Physicians often join local, county or state medical societies as a way to help shape health care policy and support the interests of the profession. They also belong to national specialty associations and, in many cases, may be members of the American Medical Association (AMA).

The mission of a medical association is “to serve humanity by striving to achieve the highest international standards in medical education, medical science, medical art and medical ethics.” Its responsibilities include representing physicians with a unified voice in courts and legislatures across the nation; removing obstacles that interfere with patient care; leading efforts to prevent disease and confront public health crises; and driving the future of medicine to address the biggest challenges facing our patients.

AMA policy is created through the work of a number of committees and councils that discuss a wide range of issues, such as hospital facilities, medical education, medical service, the cost of drugs, insurance plans and scientific exhibits. AMA staff also play an important role, particularly in supporting and providing advice to its members.

While the AMA is the largest national physician organization, it has lost some of its clout in recent years. Several factors contribute to this atrophy, including growing competition for dues from national specialty societies and from county and state medical associations. In addition, the AMA has had some missteps in its advocacy efforts, such as its backing of the Obama health care legislation, which has alienated some physicians.

The AMA has four levels of governance: the officers and board of trustees make up the Executive Branch; the House of Delegates serves as the Legislative Branch; the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, or CEJA, is charged with interpreting the AMA’s Principles of Medical Ethics and developing Current Opinions on ethical matters. The AMA’s Board of Trustees has special authority to take action on an issue between meetings of the House of Delegates, but all actions are subject to approval by the House of Delegates at the next regular session.

The AMA’s Membership Department has an active roster of groups that discuss government regulations, continuing medical education, medical economics and peer review. It also has an extensive network of more than 60 international medical associations. These member associations are called Associate Members and have voting rights at the annual Associate Member Meeting, the right to participate in the General Assembly through the elected representatives of the Associate Members and access to the AMA’s international resources. The AMA is committed to enhancing the value of membership in order to attract and retain physicians and its workforce. This means reducing administrative burdens in the workplace, addressing the changing dynamics of healthcare, and empowering doctors to lead in an era of consolidation and change.