AAGP at the AMA

Published Monday, July 14, 2014
by Allan A. Anderson, MD, AAGP Past President (2011-2012)

Over the past two years I have represented the AAGP at the annual and interim meetings of the American Medical Association. This is the first time that our organization has had a formal association with the AMA. In the past, AAGP member James Greene, MD, had attended the AMA and had supported a formal relationship. Given the ever-changing practice of medicine and the role the AMA has in this, the AAGP board of directors has supported the AAGP gaining a more formal association. In June of 2013 I represented the AAGP as a member of the AMA Specialty and Service Society. The SSS, or Triple S as it is known, is an organization of physician specialty groups that meets at the AMA meeting. It is comprised of organizations that currently have delegate status at the AMA and others, like AAGP, who do not. In addition to gaining some representation at the AMA by joining the SSS it is expected that organizations apply for formal AMA delegate status within three years of SSS membership. As we are entering our third year of SSS representation we can now apply for delegate status.

There are three benefits from being a member of the House of Delegates of the AMA. One is the chance to represent our organization. This occurs in a number of ways. At the annual meeting there is a medical student showcase that is well attended. In 2013, Chicago geriatric psychiatrist Sandee Swantek, MD, helped to staff an AAGP exhibit. She had a chance to interact with many medical students and found some who had a significant interest in geriatric psychiatry. Unfortunately she could not be present this year so I staffed the exhibit and met a number of medical students, some with an interest in geriatric psychiatry. Some were excited to learn of our Scholars Program and planned to contact staff at AAGP for more information. At various caucus meetings, at the SSS, and at social events I have had the chance to interact with physicians from across the nation and advocate for geriatric psychiatry. I have enjoyed discussing our role in helping to better manage the mental health of our nation’s elderly population. I have interacted with other association representatives such as those with the American Medical Director’s Association, now with a new name—the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. Our presence at the meeting helps educate other physician leaders about our organization including our mission of promoting the mental health and well-being of older people, and highlights clinical and research efforts in the field.

A second benefit is the chance to offer testimony on various resolutions and reports as well as the opportunity to submit resolutions. Currently as a member of the SSS and not a member of the House of Delegates (HOD), I cannot testify on the floor of the HOD without prior approval. With delegate status the AAGP representative can testify on the floor of the HOD. However, I was able to add some testimony at various caucuses and at the SSS. There were few resolutions that centered on geriatric mental health issues, as well as few that centered on geriatrics. There were some resolutions submitted by AMDA and I had a chance to discuss these in our caucuses. As AAGP hopefully gains delegate status we will have greater opportunity to work with other organizations in submitting resolutions to the HOD, resolutions that center on the needs of our patients and their families.

A third benefit centers on the role of the AMA in shaping the future of health care, particularly as it pertains to models of health care finance. This year I had the chance to attend a program that centered on the future of bundled care. Unfortunately there was little that focused on mental health care in that presentation. Working with the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and other psychiatric associations we can have a greater role in promoting quality mental health care in such plans. Currently psychiatrists in three psychiatric organizations have representation at the AMA including the APA, the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Among current delegates, psychiatrists also represent the American Society of Addiction Medicine. We need to add AAGP to the list of national associations representing psychiatry at the AMA.

Finally, I have learned that our AAGP legislative staff has found our involvement at the AMA level to open doors to their efforts on Capitol Hill. The AMA yields significant power on the Hill and our involvement does help us better advocate for our mission. So where do we go from here? With further support from the AAGP board we can apply for formal delegate status. We need to meet membership criteria of having at least 20 percent of our physician members as current AMA members. Present estimates are that we do meet these criteria. Providing approval of our application we could have formal representation with delegate status at the AMA Annual Meeting in June of 2015.

Allan A. Anderson, MD, of Easton, Maryland, an AAGP past president, serves as AAGP’s representative to the American Medical Association.