CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) announced policies adopted by physician and medical student leaders from all corners of medicine during the first day of voting at the Special Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates. Policies adopted help the AMA drive the future of medicine, remove obstacles that interfere with patient care, and improve the health of the nation.

The AMA’s House of Delegates is the policy-making body at the center of American medicine, bringing together an inclusive group of physicians, residents and medical students representing every state and medical field. Delegates work in a democratic process to create a national physician consensus on emerging issues in public health, science, ethics, business and government to continually provide safer, higher quality and more efficient care for patients and communities.

The policies adopted by the House of Delegates during the meeting include:

AMA recognizes funding bias contributes to rural health disparities

Current models of health care funding favor large population centers and the AMA recognizes this systemic bias as a contributing factor in rural health disparities, according to new policy adopted by physicians and medical students at the Special Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates.

“Vast rural areas disproportionately struggle to care for the sickest of patients; experience a dearth of primary health care professionals; and endure strenuous, disruptive financial burdens,” said AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, M.D. “Until the systemic bias in health care funding is recognized, a viable model for reducing or eliminating rural health disparities cannot move forward.”

The AMA will advocate for payment policy reforms that eliminate systemic bias to help rural areas reduce physician workforce shortages and improve health equity.

AMA endorses demographic data group for Middle Eastern and North African

Standards for collecting race and ethnicity data should be expanded to include a distinct demographic category for people of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) descent, according to new policy adopted today by physicians and medical students at the Special Meeting of the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates.

“Physicians benefit from collecting accurate patient demographic data and applying it to medical research, personalized health care, and patient-centered engagement,” said AMA Board Member Willarda V. Edwards, M.D., M.B.A. “Expanding the demographic classification to recognize people of Middle Eastern and North African descent can help inform efforts to eliminate health care inequities, an important priority for the AMA and our nation. By revising standards to reflect our changing demographics and how our patients self-identify, we can better examine quality data stratified by race and ethnicity with improved accuracy.”

In keeping with the new policy, the AMA will advocate for the use of “Middle Eastern/North African (MENA)” as a separate race category in all uses of demographic data, including medical records, government data collection and research, and within medical education. The AMA will also incorporate “Middle Eastern/North African (MENA)” as a separate race category on all AMA demographics forms.

Delegates also instructed the AMA to study methods to further improve disaggregation of data by race which most accurately represent the diversity of patients.

AMA joins call to end the harmful practice of virginity testing

Joining a global call to action to end virginity testing, physicians and medical students at the Special Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates adopted policy supporting a ban on genitalia inspections to assess virginity. The new policy acknowledges that virginity testing lacks scientific merit or clinical basis and confers no health benefits. Evidence shows that virginity testing is likely to have negative psychological consequences for the patient.

The AMA policy aligns with guidance from the Code of Medical Ethics stating that physicians should solely recommend medically appropriate and scientifically grounded care, and instructs the AMA to help promote awareness within the medical community about the continued existence of this practice and its detrimental effects on patients.

“Physicians have an ethical obligation to use our best medical judgment in the delivery of safe, effective clinical care — and that includes putting a stop to any examination that lacks scientific validity and is not directly related to a patient’s medical needs,” said AMA Board Member Madelyn E. Butler, M.D. “This painfully invasive and blatantly discriminatory practice not only inflicts lasting physical, psychosocial, and emotional harm, but it also reinforces stereotypes that perpetuate gender inequities in health care. The adoption of this policy underscores the AMA’s commitment to advancing gender equity in medicine and safeguarding our patients from the harm of virginity testing.”

Recognizing the existence of longstanding and complex cultural practices, the policy also directs the AMA to support culturally competent counseling to educate patients and family members about the negative effects of virginity testing and referral for further psychological support when needed.

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.