After 154 years in Chicago, will the American Medical Association pull up stakes and move to the nation's capital?
That's a fanciful proposal one group of delegates presented for consideration at next week's annual AMA meeting in the Windy City, which by now is as closely associated with the nation's biggest medical group as the famous State Street that runs just west of the organization's distinctive headquarters building.
The AMA's 547-member House of Delegates, meeting for five days in the grand ballroom of a landmark hotel on Michigan Avenue, will consider more than 250 reports and resolutions on everything from ethical issues and financial concerns to federal legislation and clinical practices.
The delegates will discuss limits on the gifts that drug representatives can provide doctors, the use of federal surpluses for uninsured Americans, tough new restrictions on the availability of physician-prescribing information and a prohibition on direct-to-consumer drug advertising.
Then there's the proposal by the Mississippi delegation, which wants the AMA to relocate to Washington, where it can better perform its priority of "representing the interests of physicians before Congress and the executive branch of government."
In its one-page proposal, the delegation suggests that a move to the nation's capital-which it concedes would require "substantial expenditures"-would signal the group's intent to "make government advocacy its top priority." The proposal is not expected to receive much support, officials noted.
The meeting will feature the installation of the organization's 156th president-Richard Corlin, a gastroenterologist from Santa Monica, Calif.-and the presentation of a report outlining the group's financial performance and future priorities. The financial report will show an operating profit of $2.7 million in 2000, which is the AMA's first year in the black since 1996 (See story, p. 14).
D. Ted Lewers, M.D., chairman of the organization's board of trustees, said the organization continues to exert considerable influence across the country despite a recent dip in membership. The AMA has about 290,000 members, or slightly more than 30% of all U.S. physicians.
"No other professional organization impacts American medicine or our healthcare system more than the AMA," Lewers said.
One topic almost certain to trigger considerable discussion will be a resolution by the California delegation to limit the use of information on physicians in the AMA's master list. The list includes the biographies of every doctor in America and is sold to about a dozen commercial interests, generating about $20 million each year for the organization.
The delegation wants the AMA to inform all physicians that they have the right to prevent personal information from being distributed and to prohibit the organization from collecting their Social Security numbers without written authorization.