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EMS Anniversaries: National Academy of Medicine Celebrates a Legacy of Impact

2020 will certainly be a year to remember, but it wasn’t all bad. A number of significant EMS-related events, services, and associations marked important anniversaries during this fateful year. This series authored by Dan Casciato highlights these milestones. See the Related Content box for other installments.

The National Academy of Medicine (NAM), established in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine, is another medical institution celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The NAM started as an independent organization of eminent professionals from diverse fields that included health and medicine; the natural, social, and behavioral sciences; and beyond. It serves alongside the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering as an adviser to the nation and international community.

According to J. Michael McGinnis, MD, MA, MPP, NAM’s executive officer, the organization works to advance progress on critical issues in health, medicine, biomedical science, and related policy through its domestic and global initiatives. “We’re also an honorific society, with more than 2,000 members elected by their peers in recognition of outstanding achievement,” he says.

The organization has played a role in many major U.S. health policy developments, such as the expansion of health insurance coverage, mobilizing to counter the AIDS epidemic, the quality and patient safety movement, and application of the Affordable Care Act. As understanding and treatment of disease has advanced over the past several decades, the IOM/NAM has served as a trusted, steadfast adviser to researchers, regulators, and providers.

“For example, we raised the visibility of important considerations in population health, such as the social determinants of health, disparities in health and healthcare, and strategies to advance health equity,” says McGinnis. “We have stewarded the review of nutrient requirements and recommendations.”

In recent years the NAM has taken a leadership role in key areas such as promoting clinician well-being, bringing together stakeholders to combat the U.S. opioid epidemic, and pandemic preparedness and response.

“In this respect we have built a strong body of work globally, helping to ensure the U.S. government’s ongoing investment in global health, securing the future of important international programs like PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), and forging international collaboration in responding to COVID-19,” says McGinnis.

Fighting Fragmentation

An activity to which McGinnis has given particular attention over the years has been building a multisector public-private coalition of senior organizational and national leaders that can work together to combat the fragmentation in our health system and develop coherent initiatives to improve its results.

Through this group, now called the NAM Leadership Consortium: Collaboration for a Value- & Science-Driven Health System, a broad movement has developed under the banner of a learning healthcare system. A learning healthcare system is one in which “science, informatics, incentives, and culture are aligned for continuous improvement, innovation, and equity,” NAM explains. “With best practices seamlessly embedded in the delivery process, individuals and families [are] active participants in all elements, and new knowledge [is] generated as an integral byproduct of the delivery experience.”

“There are now more than two dozen publications in the learning health system series, including on unnecessary costs in healthcare, artificial intelligence, digital interoperability to achieve high-quality patient care, and effective care for high-need patients,” says McGinnis. “Consortium members are now actively assessing the impact and lessons learned so far from the COVID-19 experience—lessons that will be applied in forging the path to health system transformation that advances health, healthcare, and equity.”

The organization’s credibility and longevity reside in two sides of the same coin: the expertise and distinction of its members, notes McGinnis—“those who make up the National Academy of Medicine and our faithfulness to the obligation to do one thing well: Use the evidence to discern and tell the truth in answering questions about health, healthcare, and biomedical science.”

It has expanded its reach to cover a wide range of topics related to the delivery of healthcare and building better systems.

“We’ve also built more partnerships and stronger collaborations that have afforded new opportunities to further influence healthcare improvements domestically and globally,” says McGinnis. “We have become more active on the implementation side of our work to facilitate the application of our findings and recommendations through creation of action collaboratives dedicated to progress.”

NAM’s future focus areas include extending the human health span; achieving global health equity; accelerating the translation of scientific breakthroughs to prevent, treat, and cure disease; mapping and mitigating the risks of climate change for human health; and advancing the promise of big data in health and medicine.

“I’m proud to work for an organization that has, for half a century, remained a trusted counsel to the nation for evidence-based advice on matters of health, healthcare, and biomedical science—advice that has been used to shape policies, initiatives and programs, and research agendas domestically and across the globe,” McGinnis says.

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Daniel Casciato is a freelance writer and social media consultant from Pittsburgh, Pa. He makes his living writing about health, law, social media, and technology. Follow him on Twitter at @danielcasciato. 

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