The American Medical Association is a national organization of medical professionals – doctors, who have dedicated themselves to the health care of all people. To meet the multiple responsibilities with which the profession is entrusted, the AMA was founded in 1847 as a non-profit, public service institution.
Connecticut physicians, in particular, long ago realized that physicians should speak out together in a strong voice in order to prevent the erosion of professional independence and to promote the public health. A CSMS officer was the president of the two national medical conventions in 1846 and 1847 that resulted in the founding of the AMA. Its avowed purpose then, and one which remains unchanged, was: “To promote the science and art of Medicine and the betterment of public health.”
The AMA is a federation of constituent state medical societies and national medical specialty associations. Its membership includes physicians from every segment of medicine and representing every form of practice. The AMA House of Delegates is the body that determines policy and elects the trustees and other national officers.
The AMA is, in fact, a member-oriented organization where the majority prevails, according to the best standards of representative democracy. Newly elected delegates to the AMA return from national meetings invariably impressed with the open, democratic, and sometimes unpredictable flow of events. Through the reference committee system, issues are discussed not only by delegates, but also by rank-and-file members.
CSMS delegates have watched ideas of individual members, first proposed at the county association level, go on to receive support at the state meeting, and then be carried by the delegates to the AMA, where they are aired, argued, and actually adopted as policy for action at the national level, all in a matter of months. Resolutions from Connecticut have had a particularly successful record in this respect.
The AMA may well be the most democratic national voluntary association. This AMA democracy is a real and impressive asset that guards against the entrenchment of unrepresentative leadership. It assures an organizational vehicle by which the best ideas and attitudes of the individual members can, by common agreement, quickly become effective in the national forum.
As a voluntary service organization, the AMA is concerned with cultivating and advancing medical knowledge; fostering high quality medical care for all, along with broadened availability; elevating the standards of medical education; facilitation and encouraging constructive dialogue among medical professionals and community; and examining current patters of medical care delivery systems with a view toward developing new methods that will be more responsive to the total health needs of the public.
A major portion of the AMA’s resources are devoted to one primary purpose: to help the American doctor practice better medicine, and in so doing, better serve his or her patients. As monitor of educational standards, guardian of professional ethics, publisher of scientific information, and in many other ways, physician members of the AMA have exerted a major influence in creating the environment and providing the tools for medical progress.
Nothing is more important to the integrity of medicine than the freedom of its learned practitioners to exercise independent judgment, in accordance with informed standards democratically imposed by the profession upon itself, not dictated by others, and to act in the patient’s best interest.
The raw material of democracy is diversity, but democracy’s ultimate goal in unity, for the strength to achieve the ends that can be agreed upon as common. This unity is weakened by every missing ingredient, by every idea that isn’t considered for lack of an advocate, by all those physicians who do not participate in the battle that the AMA wages to preserve their right and freedom to practice medicine in accordance with their best medical judgment, and in their patient’s best interest – to preserve, in a word, their professionalism.