New AMA president urges physicians to increase health care advocacy

Michael Winters , Contributing News Writer

Andrew W. Gurman, MD, in his inaugural speech as president of the AMA, issued a call to action for physicians to be leaders and advocates for their profession.

“Let this be the year we tell our colleagues about all that we are doing on their behalf and on behalf of our patients, so that more may join in our fight,” he told colleagues Tuesday at the AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago.



Dr. Gurman is an orthopedic hand surgeon in private practice in Altoona, Pa. During the last eight 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.

Amid accelerating change in medicine, Dr. Gurman said, physicians need to advocate to ensure the best outcomes for their patients and the profession. 

“It is fighting back against the powers in government, the private sector and elsewhere that are inserting themselves into health care, that are wedging themselves between us and our patients,” he said. “It is fighting against inappropriately narrow networks, unfunded mandates, senseless regulation, and the futility of conforming to protocols and requirements that have no basis in reality and no relationship to quality care.”

Advocacy also is about leading the way for new opportunities. “In these challenges, there is opportunity,” Dr. Gurman said. “Think of it. You and I have access through our smartphones to a seemingly infinite amount of medical literature and data. We have access to technology that allows us to visualize and understand disease at a molecular level, and to customize and personalize medical care like never before.”

“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.”

Dr. Gurman outlined things every physician can do now:

  • Take on leadership and speak up for the profession. “For the betterment of medicine, we need all those sitting on the sidelines to get involved,” he said. “We need more ideas at the table.”
  • Reach out to the public to spread the word about preventive care, including screening for conditions such as prediabetes.
  • Contact the business community, civic organizations and chambers of commerce to underline physician contributions to improving health care and strengthening communities.
  • Build relationships inside and outside the medical profession, including mentoring. “Many of our colleagues do not yet know the power in these relationships, the power in working to create a shared legacy in medicine,” he said.

And for those who already are active advocates, there’s one more thing they can do: “Let’s reach out to those around us,” he said. “Let’s build these relationships. Let’s encourage others to join us, to lend their voices, as we work together to create a future that supports thriving physicians, expands quality care and strengthens the health of our nation.”

Passing on the baton of presidency to Dr. Gurman, AMA Immediate-Past President Steven Stack, MD, reflected on how quickly the year as president goes by.

“I have had the amazing privilege to champion the causes important to us and to talk to the nation with the biggest megaphone in Medicine about the challenges we collectively face … the common frustrations driving physician burnout and threatening the sacred humanism of the patient-physician bond,” Dr. Stack said.

He expressed his confidence in Dr. Gurman’s leadership for the year ahead: “You are representative of the passionate, independent doctor in America today and are ideally suited for this moment, and for this important role.”

“You will carry on the vital work of the AMA,” Dr. Stack said, “so physicians and patients across the country know we are in their corner, fighting for them.”