Medical societies or associations typically perform a variety of functions, including
- developing standards of excellence, e.g. authoring medical guidelines
- educating physicians, e.g. by keeping them informed of new research and developments
- advocating for the professional interest of their members
- providing a broad professional network for physicians to interact with colleagues
A brief history
Medical societies in the US started emerging in the 18th century, mainly driven by the desire of medical professionals to implement standards and to differentiate themselves from untrained healthcare practitioners that thrived in the unregulated environment.
Initially medical societies were organized by geography, the American Medical Association (founded in 1847) first organized physicians on a national basis. In addition, in the late 19th and early 20th century physicians of different specialities started forming their own medical associations as medical knowledge grew.
Data and facts
The Physician’s Foundation 2018 Survey of American Physicians report provides some insight into the membership of medical societies. In summary: almost 80% of their survey respondents are members of their national specialty society and almost two thirds belong to their state medical society. Younger physicians (age 45 or younger) are less likely to join county or state medical societies but are about as likely as their older colleagues to join their national medical society.
Relevance for medical affairs
A healthcare providers active involvement with a medical society can provide important information to medical affairs professionals looking to identify and prioritize external experts. These experts act as the voice of their collective specialty, are up to date on policy discussions, can be actively engaged in leadership development, work on the forefront of their disciplines, are well-recognized in their speciality and willing to actively shape the medical ecosystem and can therefore provide valuable insights and advise.