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December 6, 1995

Academic Physicians' Participation in Organized Medicine

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Family Medicine, University of South Florida (USF) College of Medicine, Tampa. Dr Herold is chairman of the Florida Medical Association Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Physicians and is the USF faculty representative to the American Medical Association Medical School Section and a member of the Section's Task Force on Academic Physician Membership.

JAMA. 1995;274(21):1727-1732. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530210085045

To study the relationship of state medical societies to their medical schools, two cross-sectional surveys were conducted. The first was a survey of the medical society executive directors of the 46 states and US sovereign territories that have medical schools within their borders. Directors were asked to compare academic and community physician participation (membership and member involvement) in the medical society and describe the characteristics of the medical society's medical school unit (eg, how formalized it is and its design, composition, and level of interaction). The unit's characteristics were compared with the amount of academic physician participation. Data about physician membership in state medical societies and the American Medical Association (AMA) were obtained from the AMA Physician Masterfile. Significantly fewer academic physicians than community physicians were members of the state medical society or the AMA (38.1% vs 52.0%, P<.001, and 32.8% vs 41.7%, P<.001, respectively). Academic physician members were less likely than community physician members to be involved in medical society activities. Twenty-eight (60.9%) of 46 medical societies had no formalized structure for the unit that represents academic physicians at the medical society. The unit's characteristics had no significant relationship to academic physician membership or member involvement. This first survey and the AMA data suggest that academic physicians were significantly less likely to participate in medical society activities or join the AMA than community physicians, and the way in which medical schools and medical societies interface did not appear to influence participation.

The second survey was carried out at the four academic medical centers in Florida. All academic physicians were surveyed about their attitudes toward organized medicine. Academic physicians reported that the annual dues were not reasonable relative to the benefit derived, but other data in this study suggested that reducing dues would not necessarily increase membership. Academic physicians also reported that their administration did not reward their participation in organized medicine and thought participation was less relevant to academic physicians than community physicians, but admitted a knowledge deficit regarding organized medicine. These findings suggest that reducing dues may not be sufficient to increase academic physician participation in organized medicine, but that changing the reward system within the medical school and increasing academic physicians' awareness of organized medicine's value to them may be ways to influence participation.

(JAMA. 1995;274:1727-1732)