CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) today marked its 175th anniversary, kicking off a celebration to highlight “When Medicine Meets the Moment” through the end of 2022. Since its founding on May 7, 1847, the AMA has been the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care and an unrivaled force promoting the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health.

Over its 175 years, the AMA has protected the public from potentially dangerous treatments, championed the safety and efficacy of vaccines, helped reduce public smoking and advocated for seat belts to be standard in all American automobiles. More recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the AMA advocated strongly for personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline physicians and health care workers, validated the scientific process to develop COVID-19 vaccines, and diligently worked to debunk dangerous disinformation on social and traditional media.

“As caregivers, scientists, teachers and innovators, physicians across the country meet the moment each day, and the AMA is there each step of the way as their powerful ally in patient care,” said AMA Chief Executive Officer James L. Madara, M.D., who has led the organization since 2011. “Like the history of our nation, the AMA’s history is complicated. Today, as we mark this important anniversary, we are working not just to build on our successes and history of advocacy, but to address and rectify past wrongs. The American Medical Association has been a leading force to reform and improve our health system for 175 years, and our strategic priorities today reflect the realities of modern medicine and where it needs to go in the future.”

To read Dr. Madara’s Leadership Viewpoints on the AMA’s 175th anniversary, click here.

Today, the AMA delivers on its mission by representing physicians with a unified voice to government and other stakeholders across the country by working to remove obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises, and driving the future of medicine through innovation and improved physician training and education. In tandem, the AMA is partnering with leading health organizations to eliminate inequities and help advance policies and programs that will achieve optimal health for all.

As the convening national body of medicine through its House of Delegates—comprised of more than 190 state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders— the AMA is the largest and most influential medical organization in the U.S. through the policies that underpin our advocacy and influence medical practice for millions of physicians in the U.S. and around the world.

Key dates in AMA history:

  • 1845: A resolution to the New York Medical Association by Dr. Nathan S. Davis calls for a national medical convention, leading to the establishment of the AMA in 1847. In establishing the AMA, the organization’s founders sought to advance science, standardize medical education, develop ethical standards to guide medical practice, and improve public health.
  • 1847: As one of its first major contributions to medicine and science, the AMA adopts The Code of Medical Ethics. Drawing on language and concepts dating to the 5th Century BC and the Greek physician Hippocrates, The Code articulates the standards of ethical conduct for physicians in relation to their patients, fellow physicians, and the profession at-large.
  • 1849: The AMA establishes a board to analyze quack remedies and nostrums and to educate the public about the danger of such remedies. The Department of Investigation (1913-1975) gathered and disseminated health fraud and quackery information for the public for more 60 than years.
  • 1876: Sarah Hackett Stevenson, MD, becomes the first woman physician to join the AMA, serving as a delegate from the Illinois Medical Society.
  • 1905: The AMA establishes a council to set standards for drug manufacturing and advertising.
  • 1910: The Flexner Report, Medical Education in the United States and Canada, funded by the Carnegie Foundation and supported by the AMA, is published and facilitates new standards for medical schools. While successful in elevating medical school standards across the U.S., the report also devastated Black medical schools and led to widespread closures that severely limited most Black students from pursuing medicine.
  • 1923: The AMA promotes periodic examination of healthy persons
  • 1927: The AMA Council on Medical Education and Hospitals publishes first list of hospitals approved for residency training.
  • 1950: The AMA establishes the AMA Education Foundation, the precursor to the AMA Foundation, to help medical schools meet expenses and to help medical students.
  • 1961: The AMA recommends a nationwide vaccination using the Sabin oral vaccine against polio.
  • 1966: The AMA publishes first edition of the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT), a uniform code set for medical procedures that is a foundational element in the seamless exchange of complex medical information across the U.S. health system.
  • 1968: The AMA declares Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) are eligible for membership.
  • 1972: The AMA launches war on smoking, urging the government to reduce and control the use of tobacco products and supporting legislation prohibiting the disbursement of tobacco samples.
  • 1986: The AMA a passes resolution opposing acts of discrimination against AIDS patients and any legislation that would lead to such categorical discrimination or that would affect patient-physician confidentiality.
  • 1989: Nancy Dickey, MD, a family physician from Texas, becomes the first woman to be elected to the AMA Board of Trustees. Eight years later (1997), she becomes the first woman elected as AMA president.
  • 1995: Lonnie Bristow, MD, an internal medicine specialist from California, becomes the first Black president of the AMA.
  • 2005: The AMA spearheads effort with 129 other health care and patient groups for Congress to pass the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act, which established a voluntary national reporting system to improve data collection, resolve patient safety and quality care issues, and implement patient privacy protections.
  • 2007: The AMA unveils a Voice for the Uninsured national campaign to advocate for reforms that would increase access to coverage – laying the groundwork for our organization to support the Affordable Care Act three years later.
  • 2010: The AMA supports passage of the comprehensive health care reform law (sometimes known as ACA or “Obamacare”), that helps improve access to health insurance for millions of people in the U.S. who could not obtain it previously and numerous patient protections that improved access to and reduced cost of coverage.
  • 2013: AMA adopts a strategic framework consisting of three areas of focus:

    • Accelerating Change in Medical Education to reinvent medical education. Six years later, AMA announced a sister program called Reimagining Residency.
    • Stemming the rise in chronic disease with a focus screening and early detection for pre-diabetes and improving cardiovascular health through improved blood pressure control.
    • Developing tools, resources, training and support to reduce professional burnout and improve physician wellness and practice sustainability.
  • 2014: Robert M. Wah, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and ob-gyn from Virginia, becomes the first Asian (Chinese) American president of the AMA.
  • 2016: The AMA launches Health2047, a Silicon Valley-based business formation company, which integrates physician experience and expertise into the design and creation of new health care technologies. The for-profit venture is focused on solutions in three key areas: achieving data liquidity, reducing chronic disease and improving productivity and value in care delivery.
  • 2019: Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, a child psychiatrist from Atlanta, becomes the first Black woman president of the AMA.
  • 2019: The AMA creates the AMA Center for Health Equity to lead its organization-wide efforts to advance racial justice and equity in medicine. In 2021, The Center launched a multiyear, multi-faceted plan to advance this work inside the AMA and out.
  • 2020: The AMA’s Board of Trustees recognizes police brutality and racism as urgent threats to public health. AMA pledges to work to dismantle racist and discriminatory practices across medicine.
  • 2020: The AMA confronts the national crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, elevating the urgent concerns of physicians and patients, developing critical tools, resources and support, creating trusted, evidence-based information, and helping lead a national effort to build support for COVID vaccines and counter widespread misinformation about the virus, treatments and vaccinations.
  • 2022: AMA marks 11 consecutive years of membership growth, topping more than 275,000 members.

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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.