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AMA revises policy to address continued demand for physicians

For immediate release
December 9, 2003


HONOLULU -- The American Medical Association late yesterday amended policy to address inequities in the size, composition, and distribution of the U.S. physician workforce that are limiting patient access to care. The policy will guide the AMA’s efforts with the public and private sectors to ensure there is an adequate supply of physicians to meet demand and need.

“Not having a doctor when one is needed can be devastating to a patient,” said AMA President-Elect John C. Nelson, M.D., M.P.H. “The AMA is committed to making sure that physicians are available now and in the future.”

Previous AMA policy stated that continued growth in the physician workforce would lead to an oversupply. These policies noted that physician supply had been increasing at a faster rate than the U.S. population for the last 20 years. In that time, more than 368,000 physicians were added to the workforce, and U.S. medical schools were graduating about 18,000 students annually.

Emerging evidence demonstrates, however, that the current supply of physicians has not exceeded the demand for physicians’ services. Despite the increase in the nation’s supply, the number of physicians in rural areas did not rise proportionally. Both rural and urban shortage areas exist due to an imbalance in the distribution of physicians. Further decreases in rural physicians are predicted with the declining interest in family practice as a specialty.

While there is evidence of physician shortages, the AMA believes declaring a national physician shortage, overall or in some specialties, may be premature without detailed, specialty-specific studies. The policy calls on the AMA to support current Title VII programs to alleviate the shortages in many specialties and the unequal distribution of physicians across the U.S. We will be working on a report to address these critical physician supply issues.

Other actions taken on Monday by the AMA House of Delegates included formulating policy to:

  • Strongly oppose the use of tobacco settlement funds for projects unrelated to tobacco use prevention and control, tobacco-related health research, treatment of smoking-related diseases, or increased access to medical services. This policy calls for the AMA to work with state medical societies to protect the settlement funds.
  • Calls on state and local medical societies and medical specialty societies to take a leadership role in planning for and ensuring that their state and community will have the “surge capacity” to respond to mass casualties resulting from a disaster or other public health emergency; and
  • Asks for the AMA to call on the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure a multi-state coordinating capacity that would provide for more effective local, state and interstate response to terrorist attacks and to expand the Medical Reserve Corps.
The AMA House of Delegates will reconvene today at 1:00 pm (ET) for a final day of policy deliberations.

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For additional information, please contact:
AMA Pressroom
Hilton Hawaiian Village
(808) 948-7619

Robert J. Mills
AMA Public Information Officer
(312) 464-5970


Last updated: Dec 09, 2003
Content provided by: AMA Media Relations

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