Today I received another dues notice from the American Medical Association (AMA). For a mere $420.00 per year, I can become a member.

Over 10 years ago, I dropped out of the AMA because it seemed to be run by a bunch of old guys who were out of touch with the real issues of practicing medicine in the 21st century. Other than the included subscription to a journal, which was then called Archives of Surgery, I felt that I received no value from belonging.

Approximately every 3 months since then I have received notices like the one above from the organization. For over 10 years.

By now, you would think they might have a clue that I am not interested in rejoining, but the notices keep on coming. I realize the process is probably automated and the algorithm doesn’t sense the fact that I’m never going to respond.

There’s a scheme that some magazines run. They send you a “free” copy and if you don’t read the fine print, you get one every month. Then you get a bill.

A variation is this: Figuring that your address is a business, which is quite likely when someone is an MD, magazines send frequent subscription “renewal” notices when you’ve decided to discontinue your subscription or even when no prior subscription exists. What they are hoping for is that an office manager or secretary will see the notice and pay the bill as a matter of routine. To illustrate this, note that I also discontinued my subscription to the New England Journal of Medicine a few years ago — but every 2 months I get a renewal notice as if I had been a subscriber all along.

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I’m not saying I can prove that the AMA is doing this with the same intent, but why would they keep it up for so long?

Also, I wonder how much money they waste mailing these notices.

According to recent figures, only about 17% (217,000) of all US doctors and medical students are AMA members; 25% of them are over 65 years old, and enrollment is flat.

I’m not sure why anyone belongs. Any ideas?

Skeptical Scalpel is a recently retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and a surgical sub-specialty and has re-certified in both several times. For the last two years, he has been blogging at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweeting as @SkepticScalpel. His blog averages over 900 page views per day, and he has over 5,900 followers on Twitter.