‘Let doctors be doctors’: New AMA president discusses priorities
Susan R. Bailey, MD, an allergist with more than 30 years of experience in a small practice in Texas, was recently sworn in as AMA’s 175th president. She said her agenda includes fighting chronic diseases and enhancing physicians’ professional experiences.
“Even with the coronavirus pandemic, my priorities have not changed,” Bailey said. “They've actually become more intensely important.”
In an interview with Healio Primary Care, she elaborated on her agenda, discussed her clinical and society achievements and more.
Q: What are your priorities for the AMA?
A: While I feel very passionate about private practice, I also believe it is important that physicians be involved in patient advocacy.
I also want to let doctors be doctors. I want to relieve doctors of the administrative burdens they encounter that keep them from spending most of their time taking care of their patients.
The AMA has had three strategic priorities over the past few years: to improve medical education, to help fight chronic disease and to improve physician satisfaction and practice sustainability. I hope to continue these efforts and to help physicians understand the new [Evaluation and Management] coding systems that are coming next year.
Q: You are the third consecutive woman to hold the office of AMA president, which is a first for the organization. What does this mean to you?
A: It was such a thrill to work with Dr. [Barbara] McAneny and Dr. [Patrice] Harris this year. Every audience that I have spoken to — the staff at a physician’s office, the American Bar Association, patient groups — has responded positively when that distinction is announced.
However, though we have had three women be AMA president in a row, I am only the sixth woman to serve as its president. So, clearly, we have got some catching up to do.
Q: Aside from being inaugurated as AMA president, what are some other highlights of your career?
A: There is no greater privilege than being asked to help someone with their medical care and taking care of patients over multiple generations. One of the greatest honors is to have a child that you took care of return as an adult and ask you to take care of their child. It does not get much better than that.
I have been in the same private practice of allergy and immunology being both children and adults since 1988. This has made me very passionate about the importance of private practice. I am a distinguished fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. I am also past president of my county’s medical society and the Texas Medical Association and have spent the last 8 years as speaker of the AMA House of Delegates.
I also believe very strongly in physicians from all parts of the country, all practice modalities and shaping health policy for organization.
Q: What is the AMA doing for small practices impacted by COVID-19?
A: The pandemic has significantly changed medical practice. The AMA has responded magnificently by helping front-line physicians advocate for the resources and supplies that they need. AMA also has a COVID-19 Resource Center on its website that is a wealth of information.
Q: Many states have relaxed or completely lifted their social distancing requirements, which may lead patients to believe the worst of the pandemic is over. What should physicians be telling their patients about preventing COVID-19?
A: We need our patients to understand that we need to keep practicing basic public health measures: wearing masks, washing our hands, staying at home or staying 6 feet apart if we do go out, since we know that taking these steps can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We will get through this pandemic, but we have all got to stick together and work together to get this done.