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Frequently Asked Questions

Archive use policies and information

What services does the Department of Records Management and Archives provide to members?
Access to the Archives of the American Medical Association is predominantly only available to AMA members as one of the benefits of AMA membership. Members and AMA staff enjoy access to more than 50 historical collections for research and utilize a wide assortment of photos, rare books, audio and video documenting the history of the AMA.

Whether you are writing books, articles, or speeches; producing videos, slide presentations or exhibits; developing Web pages, or simply have an interest in the history of medicine and the AMA, as a member the AMA Archives is your first source for information and resources.

I'm not a member of the AMA. What resources are available to me?
Non-members do not have access to the AMA Archives with the exception of one collection.  Members and the public have full access to the Historical Health Fraud and Alternative Medicine Collection which documents the work and discoveries of the AMA's Department of Investigation.

In addition to the AMA History Web page, the Digital Archives provide access to more than 230 titles from the AMA Archives in full text, searchable format.

Do the Archives charge any fees for their resources and services?
AMA members and staff pay no use fees and no fees to photocopy small amounts of archival materials. Members should contact Archives staff at (312) 464-4083 or archives@ama-assn.org about fees for reproducing photographic or audiovisual materials from the Archives collection.

Non-members will pay a per/carton fee for use of the Historical Health Fraud and Alternative Medicine Collection, which is stored offsite due to the size of the collection. Non-members will pay $43 dollars for the first carton of material they wish to view and $2.25 for each additional carton to cover transportation costs. Researchers may request up to 20 cartons at one time. Onsite researchers may also request photocopies from the Health Fraud Collection at a cost of $1.00 per page.

How do I research the Historical Health Fraud Collection?
The Guide to the Historical Health Fraud and Alternative Medicine Collection can be found on the AMA Digital Archives, under Historical Monographs.

A researcher should contact the AMA Archives office at (312) 464-4083 or archives@ama-assn.org to set up an appointment to visit the AMA Archives. Archives staff will coordinate the research request, explaining the cost of records retrieval and photocopying costs. Researchers will be required to complete an research agreement form stating the intended use of the materials and make note of the Archives use terms. This form must be returned via fax at (312) 464-5826 or mail to the Archives office at American Medical Association, AMA Plaza, 330 N. Wabash Avenue, Suite 39300, Chicago IL 60611-5885. Historical Health Fraud materials may only be viewed at the AMA Archives office in Chicago.

How can I donate an item to the Archives?
The AMA Archives considers donations that relate to the AMA and its history on a case by case basis. If an AMA physician wishes to donate an item related to AMA history, they may call the Archives office at (312) 464-4083 or e-mail archives@ama-assn.org for more information

The AMA and its history

How Do I Locate a Policy of the AMA on a Certain Subject?
For information current policy and initiatives of the AMA, visit the AMA's website. We recommend using the Search function and the Site Map to look for your topic. You may also wish to use the AMA's online Policy Finder, located on the AMA Web site. Many large public and medical school libraries have information on past AMA policy in the published works Digest of Official Actions of the AMA, 1847-1986, and it is also available on the AMA Digital Archive.

Where can I find resources on the history of the AMA? Why was the AMA founded? Who was the AMA's founder?
A good place to start is the AMA history Web page where you can find timelines of AMA history, information on its presidents and meetings, and its founder, Dr. Nathan Davis.

In addition, we recommend the following books on AMA history:

When did the AMA establish its Code of Ethics? Where can I find a copy of the original Code and subsequent revisions?
A timeline of the Code's history as well as PDF copies of its various versions can be read at the AMA history website.

Who was the first president of the AMA?
The first president of the AMA was Nathaniel Chapman, MD from Philadelphia, PA who lived from 1778-1853. He was born near Alexandria, VA and became the first AMA president the year the Association was founded in 1847. A list of AMA presidents is available online.

Who was the first woman president of the AMA?
The first woman president was Dr. Nancy Dickey, a family physician from Texas, in 1998. Before serving as the 153rd president of the AMA, Dr. Dickey served numerous positions on AMA councils and committees, and held several positions on the AMA's Board of Trustees.

Where can I find out where a certain Annual Meeting of the AMA was held?
Information on the location and dates of AMA Annual Meetings, as well as Presidents of the AMA, is available on the AMA history Web page.

Where can I find a copy of an AMA President's Inaugural Address?
Inaugural Addresses can be found in the Transactions and the House of Delegate Proceedings located on the AMA Digital Archive.

Why does the AMA symbol have a snake with a staff on it?
The AMA logo depicts the Staff of Aesculapius, a single snake wrapped around a rod or branch. The mythical figure of Aesculapius as a symbol of healing and medicine began to appear as early as 1200 BC. According to legend, Aesculapius, the son of the sun god Apollo, became so gifted in the healing arts that the god Pluto accused him of diminishing the population of the Underworld (Hades). Myth also describes how he came to choose his symbol. While examining a patient, Aesculapius killed a serpent that had surprised him. He then witnessed another snake place magical herbs in the mouth of the dead one and restore it to life. Impressed with this power, he chose a symbol that depicted a serpent coiled around his staff. Beginning in the 17th century, the Staff of Aesculapius enjoyed increased popularity as the primary symbol of medicine as the traditions of the Greco-Roman period were rediscovered.

The AMA has utilized this symbol in its logo since 1910. It is often confused with the Caduceus, a symbol that depicts two winged serpents intertwined around a single staff. While the modern day depiction of the Caduceus is often used to symbolize the profession of medicine, most scholars agree that this use is no longer appropriate.

Visit the National Library of Medicine's Web site for more information on the history behind the symbols.

Genealogy/physician information

Do the Archives have information on deceased physicians?
For information on deceased physicians, the Department of Records Management and Archives suggests you contact the following two facilities, which house the AMA's Deceased Physicians files from 1802 to 1969:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Family History Library
35 North West Temple
Salt Lake City, Utah 84150

The National Library of Medicine
History of Medicine Division
Building 38, Room 1E-21
8600 Rockville Place
Bethesda, Maryland 20894
(301) 402-8878
E-mail: hmdref@nlm.nih.gov

In addition, many medical school libraries and large public libraries have editions of the AMA's Directory of Physicians in the United States, which lists information about physicians living in the US between 1906 to the present.

The AMA's website also provides a search engine for physicians currently in practice called "DoctorFinder".

Where can I find statistical information on physicians?
Physician statistics have been complied by the AMA since 1906 and published as Physician Characteristics and Distribution in the US from 1906 to the present. The current edition, and sometimes past editions, of this publication are available in most medical school libraries. The current edition is available for purchase at the AMA Store, or call (800) 621-8335. Also, check out the AMA's Survey and Data Resources Department website for current physician statistics.

History of medicine

I am conducting research on a topic in medicine: (Contributions of women physicians in cardiology; the power of touch; standards of practice in the mental health field; early medical history; physician salaries; medicine and the Civil War; leading causes of death in 1900; the first female or African-American physician). Can the Archives help?
The AMA Archives is a benefit of AMA membership. The AMA Archives documents the history and policies of the AMA and does not include topics related to the general history of medicine. The AMA Archives only accommodates AMA physician researchers. For questions on the general history of medicine, we recommend contacting the National Library of Medicine. Their website offers access to free Medline searches and other medical databases.

National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20894
(888) Find-NLM

Where can I find a copy of the Hippocratic Oath?
The AMA does not have its own version of the Hippocratic Oath. We suggest a search of the internet using a keyword search of "Hippocratic Oath."

What is the history of Doctor's Day (March 30)?
Doctor's Day honors American physicians and was first celebrated in 1933 on March 30 – the date on which Dr. Crawford Long first used ether as an anesthetic agent in 1842.

Where can I find a list of rare book and medical antique dealers?
The AMA Archives does not maintain information on medical antiques or rare books. We recommend the following resource: National Museum of Health and Medicine, (202) 782-2200.

Article searches/reference

How can I find an article I need in JAMA or the Archives journals?
The AMA Archives does not hold the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) or Archives Journals. Please consult their website for articles and details. 

Non-AMA member physicians and the general public may search for older articles through the databases available via their local public or medical school libraries. We recommend PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine. Their search interface allows users to limit searches to specific journal titles and date ranges.

How can I find an article from the Transactions of the American Medical Association?
The Transactions can be found on the AMA Digital Archive.

Additional resources

American Medical Association. Caring for the Country: A History and Celebration of the first 150 Years of the American Medical Association. Chicago: American Medical Association, 1997.

American Medical Association. Digest of Official Actions. (Volume 1: 1846 – 1958, Volume 2: 1959-1968, Volume 3: 1969-1978)

American Medical Association. Transactions of the American Medical Association, 1848-1882. (33 volumes and Index).

Baker, Robert B., Arthur L. Caplan, et. al., eds. The American Medical Ethics Revolution: How the AMA's Code of Ethics Has Transformed Physicians' Relationships to Patients, Professionals, and Society. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1999.

Burrows, James G. AMA: Voice of American Medicine. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1963.

Campion, Frank D. The AMA and US Health Policy since 1940. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1984.

Fishbein, Morris. A History of the American Medical Association, 1847-1947. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1947.