David O. Barbe, M.D., a family physician from Mountain Grove, Mo., was sworn in last night as the 172nd president of the American Medical Association (AMA).
According to a press release from Chicago-based AMA, Dr. Barbe will “focus his tenure on advancing the AMA’s strategy to improve health outcomes for Americans living with pre-diabetes and hypertension; accelerate change in medical education and prepare students for today’s healthcare system; and enhance physician satisfaction and practice sustainability.” Barbe will take over for outgoing president Andrew W. Gurman, M.D.
The AMA, the largest association of physicians in the U.S., first elected Barbe to its Board of Trustees in 2009 and served on numerous AMA committees and task forces. He served as chair of the board from 2013 to 2014, as well as a member of its executive committee from 2011 to 2015. Barbe received his medical doctorate from the University of Missouri–Columbia School of Medicine in 1980 and completed his residency in family medicine at the University of Kansas affiliated program (now Via Christi) in Wichita, Kan. He has practiced family medicine in the same rural southern Missouri town for more than 30 years.
After 15 years in independent practice, Barbe merged his medical group with Mercy Clinic, Springfield, Mo., a 650-physician, multi-specialty integrated group. In his current role as vice-president of regional operations for Mercy, he is responsible for five hospitals, 90 clinics and more than 200 physicians and advanced practitioners. He also serves on the executive management team of Mercy-Springfield.
It remains to be seen how Barbe feels about heath IT, but it should be noted that AMA CEO and executive vice president, James Madara, M.D., last year famously used the term “digital snake oil” to begin a conversation about emerging technologies in medicine.
In a statement, Barbe touched on the issues of improving healthcare in underserved areas and ensuring coverage for all Americans. “Family medicine gave me the opportunity to return to my hometown—a low-income, underserved area—and make a difference in the lives of patients in my community,” he said. “It is because of the patients I see day in and day out that I understand firsthand the AMA’s unwavering goal of health insurance coverage for all. The ongoing debate of our nation’s health care system gives physicians an opportunity to demand that patients come before politics, to work with leaders and develop bipartisan solutions, and to bring physician leadership to the table. It is my honor to serve as AMA president during this crucial time.”