Holding Professional Societies Accountable

Shortly after Donald Trump nominated Dr. Tom Price to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the American Medical Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the American Academy of Family Physicians released statements supporting his nomination without reservation or qualification.

Many doctors were shocked to see these endorsements from their professional organizations knowing Dr. Price’s legislative track record as Representative from Georgia’s 6th district since 2005. As the New York Times editorial board describes in detail, Dr. Price has repeatedly acted against the interest of Americans’ health and well-being during his time in Congress. For example:

  • He repeatedly voted for legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, threatening to eliminate the health insurance of tens of millions of Americans.
  • He introduced legislation to defund Medicaid for millions of low-income patients who rely on it for life saving medical care.
  • He voted against expansion of the SCHIP program which provides health insurance coverage for children.
  • He repeatedly voted for legislative interference in women’s medical decision-making around their reproductive health and is rated at 0% by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

In other words, although Dr. Price earned his MD from an accredited institution, his actions have demonstrated little respect for the Hippocratic oath.

The reaction of physicians was swift and fierce. Thousands of doctors publicly denounced the AMA. An equal contingent of medical students condemned the AAMC. The National Physicians Alliance joined the fray. In response, the AMA and AAFP privately sent emails to their members reassuring them that these organizations’ values remained unchanged, but without public advocacy for those values, what meaning do they have?

As physicians, doing everything in our power to promote the health and well-being of our patients is not a corny mission statement to copy-and-paste onto a website and ignore when it’s inconvenient. It is the driving force of our clinical, academic, and political practice.

In 2016, when there is so much at stake for our most vulnerable patients, it is a time for personal and professional courage. It is time to call upon our professional societies to stand with us in the fight to ensure that all Americans have access to high quality medical care without legislative interference in the doctor-patient relationship. It is time for these organizations to state clearly the patient-centered principles that they believe in most strongly, and to advocate for these principles on every level.

Opportunities for action (list will be updated)

  1. Call your congressional representatives and voice your support for the greater access to healthcare services and opposition to Tom Price’s nomination. 
  2. Open letter to the AAFP from family doctors
  3. Open letter to the AMA from physicians
  4. Open letter to the AAMC from medical students


Author: Harrison Kalodimos

I'm a family medicine resident at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle.

2 thoughts on “Holding Professional Societies Accountable”

  1. Great post!

    I am the National President of CIR (Committee of Interns and Residents) and we released a joint statement as follows:

    SEIU’s Henry and Dr. Kellner: We Cannot Allow Representative Price to Put the Health of Seniors, Children and Working People at Risk

    Washington, DC – Mary Kay Henry, SEIU International President and Dr. Eve Kellner, President of the Committee of Interns and Residents, issued this statement today in response to President-elect Trump’s plan to nominate Representative Tom Price (R-GA) as Secretary of Health and Human Services:
    “President-elect Trump’s choice of Representative Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services proves he has tuned out the voices of America’s working families, many of whom are counting on Medicaid, Medicare or the Affordable Care Act for their healthcare.
    “As the nation’s largest union of healthcare workers, including thousands of resident physicians and fellows, we know the doctor-patient relationship is built upon comprehensive primary care. The irony is that Representative Price’s proposals would block millions of patients from preventive healthcare – resulting in a worst-case scenario for physicians and patients.
    “As Republicans rush to repeal the healthcare law with no clear plan to replace it, the health of Americans is at risk. There are 22 million Americans at risk of losing their healthcare by January. There are parents and grandparents in nursing homes, or aging at home, who would have this care endangered or cut short. There are children waking up today who can see a doctor thanks to Medicaid who would end up waiting in emergency rooms.
    “People are working harder than ever to take care of their own families and cannot afford higher costs for prescription drugs and higher premiums for less care. That’s Representative Price’s vision and the vision of Republicans in Congress. We cannot allow them to put the health of seniors, children and working people at risk and will continue to fight back with a growing movement of people across this country who will stand up and defend access to affordable, quality healthcare for all.” – Dr. Eve Kellner


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