The Chicago-based American Medical Association continues to shrink, losing about 2,500 more members last year as its list of dues-paying doctors fell for the fourth consecutive year, according to a new report that will be released at the organization's annual meeting in mid-June.
Still the nation's biggest and most influential doctors' group, the AMA's membership dropped from about 247,000 to 244,530 at the end of 2004, continuing a steady decline that began after the organization reached a record-high membership level of about 294,000 in 1999. After a slight rise in 2001, AMA membership has dropped precipitously in each of the last four years, falling about 16% over that period.
The membership decline has continued despite the outlay of millions of dollars for consultants, national studies and new strategic initiatives, and the hiring in September 2004 of a new chief marketing officer, Gary Epstein, who AMA officials said would "reinvigorate" the association's marketing and communications efforts. Epstein has reorganized the marketing, membership and communications departments in an attempt to forestall the membership declines, the report indicated.
Officials did detect some good news in the numbers: The decline in 2004 was slightly less than the previous year's drop of 3.7%. Dues revenue, however, sunk to about $48 million in 2004, meaning the average dues rate amounted to about $196 -- or far below the stated annual membership fees of $420.