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(left to right) John T. Gill, MD; AAOS CEO Karen L. Hackett, FACHE, CAE; Dr. Gurman; AAOS Past-President David D. Teuscher, MD; and William H. Seitz Jr, MD.
Courtesy of Ted Grudzinski/AMA


Published 9/1/2016
Kyle Shah

New AMA President: Advocacy Is a Lifelong Pursuit

A report from the AMA House of Delegates annual meeting
When the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates (HOD) met in Chicago June 11–15, 2016, AAOS delegate members John S. Early, MD; William J. Holt, MD; Alexandra E. Page, MD; Michael Suk, MD, JD, MPH; and Kimberly J. Templeton, MD, and alternate delegate William O. Shaffer, MD, were among those present to applaud fellow orthopaedic surgeon Andrew W. Gurman, MD, as he was inaugurated president of medicine's largest organization and most powerful voice.

Dr. Gurman, a hand surgeon from Hollidaysburg, Pa., is the first hand surgeon and second orthopaedic surgeon to lead the AMA. During the past 8 years, he has served as the speaker and vice speaker of the AMA House of Delegates and has been an active member of the AMA Board of Trustees.

In his address to the delegates, Dr. Gurman emphasized the importance of advocacy. "Advocacy is fighting back against the powers in government, the private sector, and elsewhere that are inserting themselves into health care, wedging between physicians and their patients. It is fighting inappropriate and narrow networks, unfunded mandates, senseless regulations, and the futility of conforming to protocols and requirements that have no basis in reality and no relationship to quality care," he said.

"I believe all physicians have to participate in advocacy as a professional responsibility, just like we participate in lifelong learning," he continued. "What happens in the halls of state legislatures and Congress is as important to our profession as what happens in the halls of hospitals and clinics."

A lifetime of advocacy
Dr. Gurman's advocacy work in medicine began early, as a student delegate to the AMA Student Business Session, precursor to today's AMA Medical Student Section. After completing his surgical internship and residency in orthopaedic surgery at the combined Montefiore Hospital/Albert Einstein program in New York City, he went on to a fellowship in hand surgery at the Hospital for Joint Diseases Orthopaedic Institute.

Dr. Gurman entered practice in central Pennsylvania and became active in the local medical society and civic organizations. He has served as board liaison to the AMA Foundation and represented the AMA at the Physician Consortium for Performance Improvement, which aims to enhance health care quality. He has also served on the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Stakeholders Group on Opioid Prescribing and Dispensing, which is committed to preventing inappropriate prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances.

Dr. Gurman has a distinguished record of service and leadership in organized medicine. He has represented Pennsylvania physicians in the AMA House of Delegates for nearly two decades. He is a former speaker and vice speaker of the Pennsylvania Medical Society House of Delegates and he twice served as chair of the Pennsylvania Medical Society Political Action Committee.

During his tenure as president, Dr. Gurman will focus on advancing the AMA's three strategic focus areas: to improve health outcomes for Americans living with pre-diabetes and hypertension; to accelerate change in medical education and prepare students for today's healthcare system; and to enhance physician satisfaction and practice sustainability.

"We must work together to ensure that, as physicians, we lead the way in delivering these advances to our patients. We must stand up for our patients in the face of excess commercialism, bureaucracy and regulation. We need to be their voice—their advocates in the true sense of the word," he stated.

New policies
The HOD is the legislative and policy-making body of the AMA. During the meeting, several key resolutions were adopted and attendees heard from the acting administrator of the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Notably, the AMA adopted a policy calling for background checks and a waiting period for all firearms purchasers, expanding on its previous policy of requiring the same for only handguns. The AMA also is urging prohibitions on the sale, importation, and manufacture of guns made of plastic, ceramics, or other material that cannot be detected by screening devices. In addition, the HOD affirmed a comprehensive update of the nearly 170-year-old AMA Code of Medical Ethics, a project that was started 8 years ago to ensure that this ethical guidance keeps pace with the demands of the changing world of medical practice.

With the rising opioid overdose epidemic, several new policies were put into place addressing factors that are critical to reversing the epidemic, including prescription drug monitoring programs, access to naloxone, and addiction medicine as a subspecialty.

The challenge of addressing patient safety issues arising from electronic health records (EHR) was recognized and a policy was adopted to support efforts of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (IT) to implement a Health IT Safety Center. The goal of the center would be to minimize EHR-related patient safety risks through the collection, aggregation, and analysis of data reported from EHR-related adverse patient-safety events.

The state of maintenance of certification (MOC) and osteopathic continuous certification was also discussed. Delegates adopted a policy to support efforts to improve MOC, including examining alternative pathways for board recertification pursued by other medical specialty organizations.

In his address to delegates, CMS Acting Administrator Andrew M. Slavitt focused on the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization (MACRA) proposed rule. He urged doctors to participate in what he called "user-driven policy design."

Echoing Dr. Gurman's call to action, Mr. Slavitt said, "It is essential that physicians not only participate in but have a leading voice in the change that is ahead. I promise you that this process and this program will be better with your input and participation, as you help make sure they connect as closely as possible to supporting the realities of patient care."

Kyle Shah is the manager of clinical quality and regulatory affairs in the AAOS office of government relations. She can be reached at shah@aaos.org

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