New AMA president says he's ready to take on big challenges facing doctors amid payment cuts and rising burnout rates

Bruce Scott, M.D., took the reins of the American Medical Association (AMA) for his first full day on Wednesday, June 12, succeeding immediate past president Jesse Ehrenfeld, M.D.

Scott was sworn in Tuesday night at the physician advocacy group’s annual meeting in Chicago. 

Scott, an otolaryngologist from Kentucky, spoke with Fierce Healthcare preceding his inauguration and discussed his priorities for the year ahead.

Though Wednesday marks Scott’s first day at the helm, he is no stranger to AMA leadership. 

Scott led the AMA’s House of Delegates as Speaker for the last four years. 

State medical societies and medical specialty associations from all 50 states are represented on the House of Delegates. Scott considers it the “crown jewel” of the AMA. Together, the delegates consider policy that would benefit physician practices in the country. 

“It's an interesting and great transition to go from being the person who is leading the making of the sausage, if you will, to the person who is then trying to sell the sausage,” Scott said. “The policies that we develop within the house are in the best interest of our profession and of our patients."

Bruce Scott
Bruce Scott, M.D. (American Medical Association)

During his tenure, Scott said he wants to emphasize the things that unite providers rather than the things that divide them. 

“We need to stop struggling over things that divide us as surgeons and primary care doctors, and rural and urban, and liberal and conservative, and realize that those things that bind us together are greater than those things that divide us.”

Some of the AMA’s biggest policy priorities include reducing prior authorization, bolstering Medicare payments for physicians and tamping down on increased scope of practice by non-physician providers. Scott said he hopes to follow in the steps of Ehrenfeld in engaging policymakers on these topics. 

In addition to banding together on those cross-discipline issues, Scott wants to advocate for rural clinics. Scott is president of Kentuckiana Ear, Nose & Throat, a private practice based in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky with six providers, and he has seen first-hand the struggles that all providers face amplified in rural areas. 

During his last four years as speaker of the House of Delegates, Scott said he’s heard physicians’ concerns about the use of AI in healthcare, which he said were reasonable. Doctors want to make sure AI is patient-centric and overseen by a physician; they want to know if it will work in their office; and wonder what liability comes with using AI tools, Scott said. 

“We're committed to making sure that AI is something that is ethical, equitable and responsibly applied, and one of the important principles of that is that there should be transparency. We are concerned that federal government regulation is or has fallen behind the development of different digital tools,” Scott said.

At the 2024 House of Delegates meeting, Scott said several resolutions were passed on artificial intelligence in healthcare. 

Broadly, physicians need to unite in their priorities to create change, he said.

“We need to convince Washington that we need to deal with these issues now, and that's the message that I'm going to be bringing this evening in my inaugural address; it's time for all of us as physicians to unite, unite around the things that bind us together,” Scott said.

During his inaugural address at the 2024 AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago, Scott said physicians are struggling with two decades of spiraling Medicare payment cuts and ever-increasing administrative burdens.

"Almost two-thirds of physicians show signs of burnout. One-third plan to reduce their hours. One in five physicians are hoping to stop practicing or retire in the next two years. Physicians are literally closing their doors," he said. "As a physician in an independent practice, I live these issues every day. I see my colleagues struggling. I feel the urgency of the moment."

He added, "You better believe I’m ready to fight. Fight for you. Fight for us. Fight for our profession and our patients."