In the US alone, there are literally thousands of state, regional and national medical associations that represent providers in every major area of healthcare. While millions of the healthcare providers in the United States can consider themselves members of one or more of these organizations, there are millions more who are not. As a student you’ve got enough on your plate, so it can be difficult to determine whether or not joining one of these professional associations is worth your limited time and resources. This article will look into whether or not association membership still makes sense in this day and age, and if so, how to determine which association(s) are right for you.
First of all, let’s get the objections out of the way. These are some of the common reasons cited by students and healthcare providers for not joining a professional association:
- It costs too much money.
- The association’s stance on “hot-button” issues might differ from their own.
- There are many differing, even competing societies, so it’s hard to choose the right one(s) to join.
- Don’t have enough time to take advantage of the networking benefits.
- Perception that similar opportunities are available elsewhere, for free.
In the list above, the issue of cost (i.e. member dues) is often the deciding factor. Associations are well aware of this, and the good news for you is that students often receive deeply discounted rates on member dues – many associations even waive the membership fee entirely. To give you an example, dues for a one year AMA membership are as high as $420. However, the annual dues for a medical student are a mere $20. That’s a big difference, and a fantastic opportunity for students to take advantage of.
Now that we’ve covered the common reasons healthcare providers cite for not joining, let’s take a look at the long list of benefits that association membership provides:
- Most associations provide students with resources to help pass your exams.
- Associations provide payment and legislative advocacy support on important issues specific to your profession/specialty.
- Members often receive numerous free perks, along with deep discounts on a wide variety of products and services ranging from journal subscriptions, educational tools, travel and even insurance.
- You can participate in the development of clinical guidelines, quality measures, and other means of scientific exchange to help contribute to improved quality and more favorable patient outcomes.
- CME! In addition to a plethora of CME choices online, medical society meetings often come with a year’s worth of CME credits, and members receive significantly discounted rates on tickets.
- Through a network of consultants and attorneys, associations can provide support and guidance for issues such as running your practice or dealing with malpractice lawsuits.
- It’s something else to include on your CV (…why not?).
- You have a voice that can help shape the direction of healthcare in this country.
- One of the greatest benefits of association membership, and this cannot be understated, is the numerous opportunities to network and connect with your peers.
As you can see, the pros/cons of association membership are extremely individualized. Below are a few suggestions and considerations that can help determine whether association membership is right for you:
- Make a list or spreadsheet of all relevant national, regional, and state societies that pertain to your chosen profession/specialty.
- Research what the member benefits are and how many of the member benefits you would realistically take advantage of. Sometimes the perks alone can completely outweigh the cost of dues.
- Take a look at the annual membership fee – not only what the student dues are, but what your dues might be in 5-10 years from now.
- Read about the association’s goals to see if they are aligned with your own interests. Some associations represent hundreds of thousands of providers, and while they carry more lobbying power, they may also represent many differing priorities. Other associations, while smaller, can be extremely specific and more focused on the issues you hold near and dear to your heart. For example, there is the Association of Black Cardiologists or the Association of Women Surgeons. Both types have their place, which is why many providers are members of both large and small associations.
- Look at the available networking opportunities, and decide whether or not you could see yourself being an active participant.
- Ask fellow students or colleagues what associations they are members of and whether they would recommend you join.
- Read the SDN forums for any additional insight from your peers.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does provide a great starting point for everyone out there considering association membership. Your best bet is to look into all available options, do your own research, and then decide if/when you would like to join a professional medical association. While not right for everyone, associations can (and do) play an extremely important role in the healthcare landscape, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Did you know that medical societies are also the main sources of clinical practice guidelines? Don’t forget – Guideline Central is offering SDN members the “top 20 guidelines” package for free. SDN members can click the link below to claim.