American College of PhysiciansFor decades, the American College of Physicians (ACP) and the American Society of Internal Medicine (ASIM) worked side by side, albeit not geographically, complementing each other’s efforts to advance the specialty of internal medicine. ACP focused on the educational and scientific aspects of the field, whereas ASIM concerned itself with socioeconomic, legislative, and regulatory affairs. Eventually, increasing changes in the environment of medical practice forced both organizations to broaden their ranges; as a result, the two groups found themselves doing similar work. After it became evident that they could accomplish more by joining forces, the two organizations merged in 1998 to become ACP-ASIM.

On April 1, 2003, ACP-ASIM took another important step forward. After an extensive name search, it became known simply as the American College of Physicians. It was agreed that the new name would not only be less cumbersome but would also better reflect the notion of one group of physicians sharing a common purpose and working together to achieve common goals. canadian pharmacy cialis

Today, ACP is a nonprofit educational charity whose mission is to enhance the quality and effectiveness of health care by fostering excellence and professionalism in the practice of medicine. It is the largest medical specialty society in the U.S., with a membership of more than 115,000 physicians and medical students. It is also the second largest physicians’ group, after the American Medical Association (AMA). There are 77 ACP chapters worldwide, including six in Canada, five in Central and South America, and one in Japan. Members are physicians in internal medicine and related subspecialties, including cardiology, gastroenterology, nephrology, endocrinology, hematology, rheumatology, neurology, pulmonary disease, oncology, infectious diseases, allergy and immunology, geriatrics, sports medicine, and adolescent medicine.

CHALLENGES FACING MEDICAL SOCIETIES

American medicine comprises more than 100 specialty societies, each with different goals and mission statements. These divisions are helpful in terms of providing focused education to physicians, but as medicine continues to splinter into smaller and smaller organizations, it becomes increasingly difficult to share information and to identify common ground.

There is a need to bring the interested parties representing American medicine together to debate the national issues fac­ing the profession. The American Medical Association House of Delegates serves an important function as the only forum in the U.S. in which all of the medical member organizations are represented collectively in one place. The Council of Medical Specialty Societies is another national forum for the larger member organizations, among others. Athough it is a politically and procedurally challenging task, it is critically important that the member organizations engage in the development and implementation of policy that affects their patients and members.

Another side to this dilemma is the significant decline in the number of individuals who belong to organizations. Of course, this phenomenon is not exclusive to medicine. In his book, Bowling Alone} Robert Putnam asserts that Americans have become more isolated than ever before and increasingly disconnected from family, friends, and social institutions. According to Putnam, this trend represents a threat to our civic and personal health.

At a time when individuals are increasingly questioning the value of belonging to organizations, how do medical societies build and sustain their relevance? Legend has it that when asked how he was always able to be open to score a goal, hockey-great Wayne Gretsky replied, “I don’t skate to where the puck is. I skate to where the puck is going to be.”
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Using this same logic, medical societies must anticipate the needs of their members if they are to develop programs and services that fulfill those needs. This is especially important in today’s rapidly changing environment, where physicians are grappling with such issues as eroding incomes, increasing overhead expenses, and rising practice liability insurance programs. The lack of affordable liability insurance is a serious threat to the practice of medicine and has the potential to leave patients with limited access to medical care.