On June 7, 2014, another glass ceiling was broken for emergency medicine. On that date, the AMA announced that Steven J. Stack, MD, FACEP, would be its 170th President, the first emergency physician to ever hold that position. When he assumes office in June 2015, Dr. Stack will be the youngest president in the past century and may, in fact, be the youngest president since the AMA’s founding in 1847. Though just one of many accomplishments made by emergency physicians, this one has special significance, tracing back to the founding of our specialty.
EM’s AMA History
Forty-five years ago, John Weigenstein, MD, one of ACEP’s founders, was accepted as the first emergency physician to represent ACEP in the AMA House of Delegates (HOD). At that time, he was most likely the only physician in the AMA HOD practicing full-time in an emergency department and his early representation in that body was one of many critical first steps to the birth and formal recognition of our specialty within the house of medicine. The road was difficult and many other physicians stood in the way, but in the end, recognition within the AMA helped pave the way for our independent standing and recognition as a distinct specialty.
How the times have changed! ACEP now has five delegates in the EM Section Council of the AMA HOD. Additionally, numerous other emergency physicians serve in the AMA HOD as delegates and alternates representing their state medical associations. Many of these leaders have distinguished our specialty as presidents of their state medical associations or in service on one of the AMA’s councils. Moreover, it has become common for numerous students, residents, and young physicians entering our specialty to hold leadership positions within AMA sections and in designated “lifecycle” seats on the AMA councils. From a challenged beginning, emergency medicine has clearly reached maturity and stands proudly alongside its fellow specialties.
And now, without an opposing candidate and by acclamation with a standing ovation, Dr. Stack was elected president-elect of the AMA at the annual HOD meeting in Chicago in June. While this is a well-earned election by an outstanding physician leader who has every right to be proud of his achievement, this is also a giant step in the evolution of the specialty of EM as one of our own has risen to the pinnacle position of leadership in the big house of medicine: president of the AMA.
Bright Future for Medicine
Now is the time to capitalize on this achievement. The AMA is thriving and has enjoyed three consecutive years of increasing membership. Further, through a bold new strategic plan, the AMA has set out to catalyze audacious and necessary change to benefit patients and physicians. Just to mention a few major current AMA activities:
- In 2013, in partnership with 11 leading medical schools across the nation, the AMA launched its Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative, an $11 million competitive grant endeavor designed to jump-start the complex process of creating the medical school of the future.
- The AMA is investing substantial resources to evaluate long-term paths to physician-practice sustainability and professional satisfaction. Through research, data, and analytics, the AMA is identifying effective care delivery and payment models to improve the quality of patient care, reduce health care costs for the nation, and increase professional satisfaction.
- In partnership with the YMCA and Johns Hopkins University (and others to come), the AMA is committing its resources, expertise, and reach to preventing heart disease and type 2 diabetes and to improving outcomes for those with these diseases. The toll of these two diseases—both in dollars and human suffering—is staggering.
Join the Efforts
In the midst of this new burst of innovation and vibrancy at AMA, however, your representatives to the AMA HOD are troubled by the paucity of emergency physicians who have chosen to help “carry the water” as members of the AMA. We are certainly thankful for the outstanding job that ACEP does representing EM interests and supporting our specialty. We do not, though, exist alone in the house of medicine, and ACEP alone is not positioned to completely represent EM’s interests in Washington, D.C., and within organized medicine in general. This is where a strong EM voice within a strong and growing AMA is vital to all of us.