AMA Update: Together For a Brighter Future

Aug 1, 2023, 06:30 AM by Lee Tian, MD

Cite as: Tian L. Together for a brighter future. ASRA Pain Medicine News 2023;48.

It was my privilege to serve as your representative at the American Medical Association (AMA) Annual Meeting in Chicago (June 9-14, 2023). This meeting was an eye-opening experience, and I would like to share my thoughts with you.

The post-pandemic years have brought tremendous changes to the field of medicine, which have sent shockwaves across specialties. Many of us are left wondering what the future will look like for our patients and for our practices. Issues such as “scope creep,” equal access to healthcare, and the arduous process of prior authorization are becoming barriers to physicians providing quality, value-based care to their patients. These are real issues that threaten the survival of our profession, and these concerns need to be heard by our administrators and lawmakers. It has certainly not been helpful that in the current political climate, distrust in our governing bodies is at an all-time high; conversely, participation in our own advocacy is at an all-time low. However, this meeting taught me there is hope – hope that will only materialize with actions; actions that need to happen now.

As a resident or fellow, you may feel powerless in the face of bureaucratic red tape to bring about tangible changes to your training and practice. However, I can assure you that our peers from different spectrums of medicine are showing up to fight the good fight and are making changes that can have a huge impact in all our practices now and in the future. Since AMA provides physicians in all stages of training an equitable opportunity to discuss their issues, all our voices are heard. However, we need everyone to join us; we need your help to shape the future of medicine and our specialty.

Many of you may wonder what advocacy looks like. It is quite simple; there is no representation without participation. Across all specialties, only 17% of physicians are members of AMA, and within ASRA Pain Medicine here in the United States, only 26% are members. While I understand the frustrations that exist, there is no excuse for not joining one of the biggest voices advocating for physicians in this country. In fact, this is how you can be heard, and your participation is vital for the advocacy of our specialty. Please start or renew your AMA memberships so that we can all work to better our profession.

Our future is stronger and better with residents and fellows having a seat in the AMA.

I would like to address how the AMA can affect our specialty because the process of getting there is often the most frustrating part. To start, AMA follows strict parliamentary procedure when facilitating discussions about how best to advocate for physicians. It does so to give a diverse House of Delegates an equal voice. Though the procedural aspect of these debates can be cumbersome, it provides an impartial forum for issues to be considered from every aspect of medicine. This is to ensure that every specialty and subspecialty can be represented by developing positions we can all stand behind. These positions then make their rounds through countless debates between physicians from all walks of medicine so that the message that we put forward can be beneficial to all. The messages from these meetings are considered foundational to our everyday practice and serve as the basis for our advocates when they are fighting for our causes on Capitol Hill and beyond. This archaic method may not be the quickest way to get things done, but I truly believe it is the way to change our current trajectory in medicine, even if it means moving the needle one tiny bit at a time.

These subtle movements can often affect the future of our medical training and practice. Here are a few examples of resolutions passed at the meeting that we are standing behind with our support:

  1. Advocating for more transparency in our governing bodies so that we can stand our ground against “scope creep” in our professions.
  2. Elimination of non-compete clauses in employment contracts to allow greater professional mobility for all physicians.
  3. Destigmatizing perinatal substance use testing to preserve patient autonomy and justice and preserve the sanctity of patient-physician relationship.

I do believe that our future is stronger and better with residents and fellows having a seat in the AMA House of Delegates. Though changes will not come to fruition immediately, if we continue to be present and invest our time and effort into our specialty, the road ahead will be bright. I invite you to join me and our colleagues as a part of the AMA on this journey to advocate for the future of ASRA Pain Medicine. Please reach out to me or the staff if you have any questions about how to get started.
Lee Tian
Lee Tian, MD, is a resident physician in the department of anesthesiology at Brown University.

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