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A Report from the AMA House of Delegates

In the first weekend of June in Chicago, representatives from medical specialty societies and state medical societies convened a meeting of the semi-annual American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates. The House of Delegates is composed of more than 500 physician representatives in a tradition dating back to 1901. The meeting is intended to be an opportunity for discussion and collaboration as well as the forum to set the policies that are anchor the AMA’s advocacy agenda. Resolutions cover a wide gamut of issues, such as health information technology, maintenance of certification, and menu labeling for food allergies. ASH was represented at the House of Delegates by Dr. Gamini Soori, a hematologist in private practice in Omaha, Nebraska, and representatives from the Resident and Fellow Section, Morganna Freeman-Keller, DO of the Moffitt Cancer Center and Sherif Badawy, MD of Northwestern University. 

There were many resolutions considered at this meeting and some of them were very relevant to current ASH activities. For example, a number of resolutions focused on the particular issue of rising costs of generic drugs. While many of the drugs used by hematologists are not yet available in generic form, the development of biosimilars has brought promise of reduced expenditures for the rapidly developing drugs in hematology. However, manufacturing consolidation may undercut those price reductions. 

Issues of public health are broadly debated at this meeting as well. Historic moments of AMA meetings in the past have included debates on the government regulation of tobacco and the HIV crisis. This meeting included extensive discussion of the regulation of electronic cigarettes, a product that ASH members have been monitoring due to potential effect on blood flow. In the end, AMA supported policy to increase taxes on electronic cigarettes so that they are similar to tobacco products. 

The meeting is not only an opportunity to set policy but an opportunity to network and learn from other specialty societies and physicians across the country. Dr. Freeman-Keller and Dr. Badway were on hand to answer questions about hematology at the meeting’s medical student forum, and Dr. Soori spent time with regional groups of physicians from the “Heart of America” caucus. The meeting closed with the announcement of candidates for positions for elected offices of the AMA, such as President and the Board of Trustees. ASH’s Dr. Soori announced that he is seeking election for the AMA Board in 2016 and ASH is pleased to endorse him in this effort. 

The work of the House of Delegates is just one example of the AMA’s effort in bringing together physicians from across the country – ASH is able to benefit from this convening power and encourages physicians to consider AMA membership in support of these collaborative efforts.