Ronald J. Crossno, MD FAAFP FAAHPM

Help AAHPM by joining the AMA. That is a refrain you’ve been hearing repeatedly in recent months. As we approach the midway mark of the second decade of the 21st century, why would any HPM physician choose to be a member of the American Medical Association? Isn’t the AMA a relic of the last century? Something that is reminiscent of smoke-filled rooms and back-room political deals? I was someone who spent much of my professional career as an AMA non-member, but upon digging deeper, what I learned frankly amazed me. The answer to the latter two questions above is an equivocal “NO!” Let me tell you why you should join me as a member of this organization that has truly reinvented itself in recent years.

Our specialty of Hospice and Palliative Medicine has made incredible strides and advances in the last 25 years. Many of us have fought hard to achieve those advances, which may have left us with an “us versus them” mentality, to the point sometimes we forget that we do have external allies. The AMA was one of our earliest such allies, and has continued to be a friend to HPM. We’ve achieved parity within the AMA as a specialty with equal footing to others. We’ve even begun advancing to leadership positions within the AMA internal structure, further helping us to network and forge alliances. This progress has helped HPM gain broader recognition, even more rapidly than could have happened otherwise.

Appreciating this process helps us to also understand why AAHPM needs to remain an active member society of the organization. The analogy that comes to mind is the U.S. Congress and its state representation process. AAHPM is like Wyoming or Rhode Island. These are small states, but they have a seat at the table in the House of Representatives and have completely equal representation in the Senate as the “big dogs” like California or Florida. I think it is probably safe to say that many people in New York or Texas or Hawaii have different political inclinations such that they have significant disagreements. However, that doesn’t mean any of these states are seriously talking of secession. The analogy holds true when one considers AAHPM’s role in the AMA. We don’t have time in this message to provide details, but the networks, connections, and inner workings of the AMA are amazingly diverse and broad. Most people don’t have a clue to this, any more than they understand the political workings of a state besides the one in which they live.

But we must take that analogy a step further. I suspect that anyone reading this can think of a presidential election within the last two decades, the results of which did not make you happy. For the vast majority of us, that wasn’t a reason to emigrate from the U.S., but rather to work for a future change more to our liking. The same holds true for the AMA. All too often, the excuse for not being an AMA member is “I don’t agree with the AMA stance on XYZ.” So is dropping out of the picture the answer to that? No! You’ve got to be at the table, advocating for our position, and working for a future change more to our liking! Sure, the ‘house of medicine’ is pretty fractured into various specialties and factions these days. Within medicine, we readily see that and must deal with it. But those outside of medicine have neither the time nor inclination to recognize or deal with all those factions. The AMA remains the “voice of medicine” to policymakers, whether in government and in private industry.

AAHPM must remain at the table within the AMA, or we lose our ability to influence the future of not only HPM or even Medicine (with the capital “M”), but of American society. We are in real danger of losing that seat, since AMA rules require that a certain percentage of AAHPM members also be AMA members in order to retain our delegate status. Having served as AAHPM’s alternate delegate to our AMA, you say I’m biased, and I am. But I got much more out of that experience than I ever put into it. As a consequence, I want to assure you that I’m not an AMA member out of some expediency purely to benefit AAHPM. I’m proud to be an AMA member! The AMA is an organization that is full of idealists, ready to tackle society’s biggest problems, much like many AAHPM members. THAT is why I encourage you to join me in helping AAHPM keep its full representation within the AMA.

Dr. Crossno is a Senior National Hospice Medical Director for Gentiva Health Services and Past President of the American Academy of Hospice & Palliative Medicine.
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AAHPM Practicing Physician Members: Go to ama-assn.org and join by April 1 to ensure AAHPM meets the requirements for representation in the AMA. Already an AMA member? Don’t forget to renew your membership by April 1!