Allan Goroll, M.D., knows exactly how some physicians have reacted to the American Medical Association's endorsement deal with Sunbeam Corp. "When we go to recruit, we get people who say, `I didn't want to join AMA, and now you know why,' " said Goroll, president of the Waltham-based Massachusetts Medical Society.
"What we find is that (physicians) will join the Massachusetts Medical Society, but not AMA," Goroll said. "This has hurt our recruiting efforts for AMA because we want people to join both."
Across the country, AMA-affiliated state, local and specialty societies and their members are reacting in different ways to the controversy that has enveloped the nation's largest physician group. Less than 45% of U.S. doctors are AMA members.
Some want the AMA to quickly put the Sunbeam deal behind it. The AMA has backed off from the deal, and Sunbeam has filed suit.
Others are challenging the trustworthiness of the AMA's internal investigation, which was led by the group's top attorney, who has been connected to other proposed endorsement deals (Sept. 22, p. 3).
Ironically, the deal that Goroll blames for hampering member recruitment had the potential to make up for eroding membership by increasing non-dues revenues by $1 million a year. The AMA had a 1996 operating profit of $7.6 million and revenues of $220.7 million.
Jack Lewin, M.D., chief executive officer of the California Medical Association, argued that physicians should rally behind the AMA and join.
"If that happens, we won't have to look outside for income," Lewin said. "I want more doctors to recognize the importance of AMA. Doctors need to pull together to support AMA. I just want to get beyond this."
That was a sentiment reflected at meetings of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia's House of Delegates and in local medical societies in Indiana, said officials of those groups.
"If it was talked about at all in their boards, it was not a big discussion. It was, `Let's just move on,' " said Adele Lash, communications director of the Indiana State Medical Association, who had spoken with members of five county and local medical societies in Indiana last week.
But others may not want to move on, as evidenced by the medical societies that have drafted resolutions calling for an independent investigation of the AMA's management and trustees (See story, p. 14).
Because those resolutions are being developed in an emotional atmosphere soon after the deal and the subsequent controversy, they reflect only short-term anger with the AMA's leadership and management, said Robert Graham, M.D., executive vice president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
The true measure of the AMA's handling of the controversy will come at the December meeting of the AMA's 475-member House of Delegates in Dallas, where those resolutions will be debated, Graham said.
"Nobody knows what people coming to the meeting will have to say," he said.