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In a Leadership Viewpoints post last month, American Medical Association (AMA) President Barbara L. McAneny, MD, and chair, Jack Resneck Jr., reviewed steps taken by the AMA in recent years to address inappropriate conduct in the workplace and emphasized a continued commitment to the issue.

"The American Medical Association understands that inappropriate conduct can happen anywhere, and we are deeply committed to ensuring that everyone in our medical community feels safe and is free of harassing behavior in the workplace, at conferences and at AMA-sanctioned events,” the article begins. “Medicine, and all professions, must operate with zero-tolerance for any type of harassment, which is why the AMA House of Delegates and Board of Trustees have taken a number of steps in recent years to strengthen policies and procedures to better maintain safe and welcoming environments for all.”

The post, titled “New AMA anti-harassment policies the right step for the profession,” begins by touching on its implementation of a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy in 2017, which extended the AMA’s zero-tolerance employee policy to all attendees of its meetings and functions—even volunteers.

In 2018, the AMA Board then took steps to further implement this policy, and in turn adopted detailed reporting, investigation and enforcement mechanisms to address claims of harassment, including adding a phone hotline and website through which AMA delegates, members and meeting attendees may confidentially report witnessing or experiencing harassment at AMA meetings or events.

While consultants noted that the AMA’s existing policy “includes many of the critical elements of an effective anti-harassment policy,” they also identified opportunities to bring its implementation and enforcement procedures fully in line with current best practices. Importantly, its recommendations include simpler ways to report alleged violations, processes to more promptly investigate and resolve claims, changes to ensure investigation independence and avoid conflicts of interests, and greater flexibility in procedures and processes.

“The AMA Board strongly supports implementing these recommendations (Board Report 10) to raise the AMA Code of Conduct, including our anti-harassment enforcement procedures, to the highest standards. But we certainly welcome further discussion and deliberation at the 2019 AMA Annual Meeting.”

With the 2019 Annual Meeting taking place the second week of June, Dr. McAneny and Resneck Jr. welcome further discussion and deliberation on the subject.

“While harassment can happen anywhere and at any time, it’s particularly troubling in medicine because of our commitment to good health and emotional well-being. The AMA Code of Medical Ethics forbids sexual harassment, for example, because it abuses the rights and trust of others, creates a hostile or intimidating work environment, and undermines patient care. This behavior is unacceptable and has no place in medicine or society,” the letter concludes.

For more information on the 2019 AMA Annual Meeting Click Here.

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