What Is a Doctor Association?

Doctor associations are national or international organizations that represent physicians and/or medical students. They promote and protect the art and science of medicine, the improvement of health and the public welfare. They are also responsible for establishing ethical guidelines for the world’s doctors.

A doctor association’s mission is to advance the health of people in a way that preserves human dignity and the autonomy of the individual physician. This is accomplished through advocacy, education, research and professional development.

The American Medical Association is the largest medical organization in the United States. It was founded in Philadelphia in 1847. The AMA’s primary objective is to “promote the science and practice of medicine for the benefit of the public.” The AMA is an autonomous national membership organization with the power to legislate and enforce its ethical principles. It is also responsible for many significant accomplishments, including a widely used system of standardized codes to describe procedures, a database to provide residency information and a coded language that is universally understood by physicians for communicating medical data.

As the AMA grapples with its decline in membership, it is rethinking its purpose. The question has become: “Is it important for a national physician group to be active in policymaking, or is the more important role promoting and protecting the rights of individual physicians?”

A new generation of doctors are less likely to consider their profession a defining element of their lives. That may explain why younger doctors are less likely to join county, state and national medical societies. The trend is even more pronounced among young women. Only about a third of women who have a doctorate are members of their national specialty society, compared to two-thirds of men.

The AMA is trying to regain its influence with a rebranding campaign, including a push to promote the importance of a physician’s conscience and a commitment to patients. It has also stepped up its efforts to fight for authentic health care reform and to preserve the ability of physicians to choose to refrain from abortions. It has also enhanced its presence on the Internet and strengthened The Linacre Quarterly, a journal that focuses on Church teachings on conscience and medical ethics.

The AMA’s long-standing opposition to single-payer health care is another major challenge facing the organization. The AMA’s governing body, the House of Delegates, will meet in June to decide whether to reverse its position on this issue and endorse a national plan that would significantly change the health-care landscape. Several groups of doctors have formed to oppose the move. They expect the AMA to lose a significant number of its members as a result.