AMA keeps its focus on the doctor-patient relationship

November 14, 2011Articles

A message to all physicians from Robert M. Wah, MD, chair of the AMA Board of Trustees.

If you talk to anyone –– physicians or patients –– about health system reform, it becomes apparent that the real core issue is the physician-patient relationship.

On the one hand, patient concerns come down to: “Will I be able to keep my own doctors? Will I have access to the physicians I need?”

On the other, physicians worry about: “Will I be able to spend the time with my patients that they need? Will I be able to get them the additional care and support required?”

The AMA mission statement is “to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health.”

Our relationship with our patients is at the heart of this statement. For the vast majority of us, the most rewarding part of our careers is the unique role that we are privileged to play in our patients’ lives. The doctor-patient relationship is one of the many things I am thankful for during this Thanksgiving season.

Like most physicians, I can recall many rewarding and heartwarming occasions that stand out for me.

Once, my wife and I were at a restaurant out of town, and she mentioned to me that a woman at another table was looking our way like she knew me. A few minutes later, the woman came over to our table, introduced herself and said I had been her surgeon a number of years before. She said I had saved her life –– and gave me a big hug.

There have been other instances as well, many related to my obstetrics practice. “You delivered our son/daughter,” is not uncommon, but it is a sign of time passing that I now also hear, “You delivered me” !

Of course, I am not unique. Nearly all physicians have similar experiences, which they, like me, cherish. These manifestations of the doctor-patient relationship show in real human terms what being a physician is all about. It is this relationship that is at the heart of everything that the AMA has stood for and worked for over the past 160 years, and is the core focus of our work in Washington.

You may have seen the superb new AMA ad campaign that speaks to the physician-patient relationship. It was launched in late October as a reminder of what the enormous effort to reform American health care really should be all about.

More information about the campaign and a video of the ad is available online (

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