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AMA Takes on Racism, Police Brutality at Annual House of Delegates Meeting

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Ongoing efforts to support physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic also discussed

June 22, 2020 (ACP) – In light of the death of George Floyd and other instances of police brutality, the American Medical Association (AMA) took a hard stance against racism and police violence at its Annual Meeting of the House of Delegates, which was held virtually for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Calling racism “an urgent threat to public health, the advancement of health equity, and a barrier to excellence in the delivery of medical care,” the AMA vowed to actively work to dismantle racist and discriminatory policies and practices across all of health care. “Police violence must stop,” stated AMA Board Chair Dr. Jesse M. Ehrenfeld in a video that played during the virtual meeting. “While we recognize that many who serve in law enforcement are committed to justice, the violence inflicted by police in the news headlines today must be understood in relation to the larger social and economic arrangements that put individuals and populations in harm's way. Police violence is a striking reflection of our American legacy of racism.”

In 2008, the AMA publicly apologized for policies that excluded black physicians. In 2019, the AMA hired its first-ever chief health equity officer to establish the AMA Center for Health Equity.

American College of Physicians President Dr. Jacqueline W. Fincher added that ACP “has long held that racism, discrimination, hate crimes or violence due to race is a public health issue, and we stand in solidarity with all those affected.” In her address to internal medicine section council members, she said, “It's important to think beyond statements to what we can do as healers and physicians to help with this issue. ACP is looking at our own work, and we will continue to develop and advocate for evidence-based solutions to racism and discrimination.”

This year's meeting – largely due to its virtual nature – was not business as usual, added Dr. William Golden, who chairs the ACP delegation to the AMA House of Delegates. While elections were held, there was no discussion of or voting on policy papers, and there is no information as to when or even how such voting will take place.

Addressing the Effects of COVID-19 on Practice

Efforts to support physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic also took center stage at the meeting, Golden said. Internal medicine section council attendees asked questions about ACP's ongoing efforts aimed at helping physician practices stay afloat during the pandemic, including those that call for pay parity for all telehealth visits and population panel payments or prospective payments to keep office-based care thriving in an era when bricks-and-mortar visits are reduced by health concerns, he said.

In her address, Fincher called attention to ACP resources on the Practice Resources section of the ACP website designed to help physicians navigate these unchartered waters.

“The information is updated regularly and spans from tracking policy changes among private payers, to figuring out telehealth, to advice about financial assistance programs, to trying to help physicians find the personal protective equipment they need to see patients,” she said. “The College's advocacy has included public health measures including access to and coverage for testing and treatment, to make sure that patients are being cared for as well as possible.”

She also highlighted ACP's role in encouraging Medicare to reimburse for phone visits at the same rate as in-person services and noted that many private payers are also following suit.

ACP Represents

Several ACP members were elected or reelected or continue to serve on the AMA House of Delegates Board and Council:

  • Dr. Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, an internist from Atlanta, is secretary for the Board of Trustees.
  • Dr. Willarda V. Edwards, an internist from Baltimore, was reelected to the Board of Trustees.
  • Dr. Ilse R. Levin, an internist and epidemiologist from Silver Spring, Maryland, was elected to the board.
  • Dr. Thomas J. Madejski, a geriatrician and palliative care specialist from Buffalo, New York, was elected to the board.
  • Dr. Cynthia A. Jumper, an internist in Lubbock, Texas, was reelected to the Council of Medical Education.
  • Dr. Megan L. Srinivas, an internist in Fort Dodge, Iowa, was elected to the resident seat on the Council of Medical Services.
  • Dr. Noel Deep, an internist in Antigo, Wisconsin and an ACP delegate continues to serve on the Council on Science and Public Health.

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Back to the June 22, 2020 issue of ACP Advocate