As the nation’s health care system continues to evolve, the AMA is dedicated to promoting scientific advancement, working to ensure that enhancements to health care in the United States are physician led, accelerating advancements in medical education, improving health outcomes, and investing in the physician-patient relationship, including promoting health care costs that can be prudently managed.

Here are some interesting facts about this organization:

  • Nathan Smith Davis founded the American Medical Association in 1847 when he was only 30 years old — Davis served the AMA throughout his professional life, attending 47 of the first 50 annual meetings. He was elected president in 1864; in 1883, he was named the first editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
  • The AMA pushed the Federal Aviation Administration to require airlines to separate nonsmokers from smokers — In the early 1970s, the AMA stepped up its war on smoking by urging the government to reduce and control the use of tobacco products and supporting legislation prohibiting the disbursement of free samples of tobacco. In 1971, United Airlines became the first to offer separate smoking sections.
  • The AMA was the national leader in opposing discrimination against AIDS patients — In 1986, when fear and ignorance about AIDS were sweeping the country, the AMA stood up for AIDS patients and opposed laws that would lead to discrimination or threaten physician-patient confidentiality. By 1987, the AMA outlined a comprehensive approach for the prevention and control of AIDS and adopted an AIDS public awareness and information program.
  • The AMA stopped “drive-through” deliveries — In the early days of managed care, new mothers were sent home the same day they delivered their babies. But thanks to the AMA’s campaign against “drive-through” deliveries, a federal law was passed requiring insurance companies to provide appropriate hospitalization and maternity stays.

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  • The AMA forced tobacco companies to admit that their products were deadly — After decades of denying that cigarettes were addictive or caused cancer, tobacco companies had to answer to JAMA, which published statements from the companies’ own memos and papers proving that they knew about the perils of their products for more than 30 years. In addition, the AMA was the main opponent to cigarette advertising aimed at children. In the early 1990s, the AMA called for an end to tobacco advertising that targeted children. The AMA’s urging became law in 1998 and teen smoking dropped dramatically.
  • The AMA was the first major health group to encourage exercise — The AMA urged people to “specialize in exercise” to feel better, look better, and sleep better—in the 1950s! Just this year, the AMA joined the CDC in urging Americans (again) to make exercise a regular part of their lives.
  • The AMA has been a strong advocate against drunk driving since 1945 — While drunk driving didn’t become a prominent public health issue until the 1980s, it was the AMA that recommended blood alcohol limits for drivers way back in 1945.
  • The AMA called for seat belts in all cars a decade before Ralph Nader did — In 1954, the AMA called for safety belts in all automobiles and encouraged drivers to “buy a seat belt for each member of your family.” That was 13 years before the US government finally made seat belts a requirement for all cars.
  • The AMA has been fighting for female physicians since the mid-1800s — Even though female physicians were highly uncommon in the 19th century, the AMA encouraged them and gained its first female member in 1876. In the 1970s, the AMA spoke out against gender discrimination in medical institutions. Today, nearly half of all students entering medical school are women, in part due to the AMA’s charted path for America’s female physicians.


  1. Did you know? AMA Web site. January 28, 2013.
  2. Our founder, Nathan Smith Davis. AMA Web site.
  3. Our history. AMA Web site.
  4. Public health. AMA Web site.