Annual Meeting

New AMA president: Physicians must cure ailing health care system

Brendan Murphy , Senior News Writer

Moments after taking the reins as the AMA’s 173rd president, Barbara L. McAneny, MD, gave her view of the health care landscape. Challenges such as the threat of health care consolidation persist. Change is an inevitability. And when it comes to navigating those challenges and shaping medicine’s future, physicians are perfectly positioned to answer the call to make change that benefits patients.

“Our patients need us to fix health care,” Dr. McAneny said during her inaugural address at the 2018 AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago. Patients are counting on physicians “to step up and create a system that is worthy” of their trust, she said.

“We have everything we need to fix what ails our health care system,” Dr. McAneny added. “We have the most important ingredients in our hands. We have our patients’ trust. We have the will, the expertise and the view of our system at its most crucial point—inside the exam room with patients.

“And thanks to organizations such as the AMA, as well as state and specialty societies, we have a voice,” Dr. McAneny said. “We have a platform from which we can lead on any issue—and work to realign our health care system so that patients and physicians are back in the center.”



Dr. McAneny highlighted the role physician leaders and the AMA have played in shaping health system reform, celebrating work done to advocate for patient access to health insurance, implement value-based care methods and positive reforms to prior authorization.

Still, she said, much work remains to be done, calling for physician leadership in areas such as:

  • Watching and analyzing newly proposed mergers and acquisitions to continue our work to protect patients from further health care sector consolidation.
  • Recognizing the social determinants of health, understanding their impact on patient populations and using new data models to measure and address them.
  • Working with data scientists and tech innovators to bring value to digital breakthroughs in medicine.
  • Creating a system with protections for physicians and arming physicians with the skills to align the resources of their institution with the goals of health.

To achieve these reforms, Dr. McAneny called for a team approach.

“As physicians, we don’t have to go it alone,” she said.  “We have each other—dedicated, smart, creative physicians working together. The AMA reflects our values and our interests because we write the policies, and we represent all of our diverse physician community, all backgrounds and all specialties.”

An oncologist from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Dr. McAneny is the first physician from that specialty to hold the AMA’s top post. As co-founder of the New Mexico Cancer Center, Dr. McAneny has witnessed, first-hand, the burdens—physical and financial—that afflict the sickest patients.

“Some of the best lessons I’ve learned, that have guided me in my career, have come from my patients in their most vulnerable moments,” she said. “I learned that some problems cannot be solved one patient at a time. Some require solutions that change the system.”

That system change requires restoring power to patients and physicians. To do that, Dr. McAneny called on physicians to define their values—values that are not frequently shared by profit-driven entities such as insurance and pharmaceutical companies—and integrate them into their practice.

“The role of physician, of healer, comes with great responsibility,” Dr. McAneny said. “We pledge ourselves to a code of ethics, promising to uphold the standards that define our work, and committing ourselves to mastering our craft through lifelong learning.

“As leaders, we join medical associations and specialty societies to develop and enact new policies, working to build a legacy we can be proud of,” she said. “As healers, we will always put the needs of our patients first. We are medicine’s moral compass, and our strength lies in our collective expertise, our insights and our values.”

Read more news coverage from the 2018 AMA Annual Meeting.