The American Medical Association publicly presented a committee's report on a number of proposed changes to the group, including the possible transformation of the AMA into an umbrella group, or "organization of organizations," that would collect dues from specialty societies and state medical groups. About 80% of committee members said the AMA should remain as it is -- an organization of individual members -- despite its loss of about 30,000 individual members over the past two years. The report was presented at the AMA's annual meeting in Chicago, where the group also debated proposals to slash governance costs, streamline business operations and shrink its 541-member House of Delegates. The AMA has not outlined specific plans to boost its flagging membership, but officials said the 21-member board of trustees will meet in July for a special "membership summit."
AMA officials also discussed a new program to train healthcare workers to respond more effectively to terrorist attacks. The program involves the Medical College of Georgia, University of Georgia, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and University of Texas at Houston School of Public Health. Classes are scheduled to begin in August. There is considerable information available on emergency responses, but much of it is inconsistent, said James James, who heads the AMA's new Center for Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response. "We need to be thinking of standardization and what is required in terms of basic skills and knowledge to make our healthcare providers and physicians more ready." -- by Michael Romano