Organized Medicine Who? Navigating the Role of Physician Organizations for Medical Trainees


Jeshanah Johnson
Member, ACP Council of Student Members

University of Mississippi School of Medicine


First things first: What is organized medicine? In general, organized medicine is when a professional organization demonstrates dedication to promoting the interests and well-being of physicians within their state, country, or both. These associations work within many interprofessional domains to protect medical practice and advocate for physicians. Along with physician interests, many professional organizations advocate for physicians' patients by taking a vested interest in socioeconomic factors that affect patient care. Although this seems like a daunting task, the American College of Physicians has a strong infrastructure to keep successful organized medicine attainable and feasible.

Health care for physicians changes constantly, and health care for our patients changes just as rapidly. Being involved in a medical association allows physicians and trainees to focus on caring for our patients while feeling reassured that those we trust are advocating for our shared interests and concerns.

Let's get to meat of this subject: How can organized medicine truly affect my life as a medical student?

  • Policies are being signed into legislation constantly that affect the way that we will practice in the future. Insurance, Medicaid, Scope of Practice, and Payment all affect health care utilization and the care that we can provide to our patients. These things directly affect us even at the trainee level.
  • These policies tend to be written and created by those who have been in medicine for decades. Although we value the wisdom that is brought by those with experience, it is important to realize the critical need for trainees and early career physicians joining medical organizations to share their voice and represent the future of medicine. Without trainees, there will be a significant loss in the membership and momentum created by those who will retire in the coming years.

Examples of resolutions and policies that have been passed by governing committees from the American College of Physicians include the following:

  1. Protecting Patient and Physician Health and Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic: In summary, this paper advocates that in light of the inadequate supply of personal protective equipment, physicians should not “be at risk of having their employment terminated or be otherwise disciplined” for speaking out within their health care setting when conditions for treating COVID-19 patients are not safe or appropriate.
  2. Addressing Social Determinants to Improve Patient Care and Promote Health Equity: In summary, this paper acknowledges that social determinants affect access to the health care system and the need to address these systemic issues that hinder health equity.

Along with these examples, you can find all of the current and past ACP policy papers that are constantly being updated here.

As a student, it is increasingly important to become peripherally or centrally involved in organized medicine and advocacy. There are many pathways to becoming an active member, and there is no obligation to be involved at all times. Whether you are using ACP to stay updated on policies, learn through continuing education sessions, or sit in on one of the many committees in our governance, your continued membership is vitally important to our work to keep health care equitable, accessible, dynamic, and inclusive.

Back to the January 2022 issue of ACP IMpact