Susan Rudd Bailey, MD, is American physicians’ new leader in the battles against COVID-19 and outside interference in patient care. The Fort Worth allergist took the oath of office as president of the American Medical Association on Sunday, becoming the sixth Texas physician to lead the organization.
“After more than 30 years in a small, private practice, I’m a passionate defender of the independent physician and, like the AMA, I’m determined to remove all those obstacles that have come between us and our patients,” Dr. Bailey said in her online installation address, delivered from a Fort Worth video studio.
Dr. Bailey’s organized medicine resume includes stints as presidents of the Texas Medical Association and Tarrant County Medical Society as well as speaker of the TMA and AMA House of Delegates.
“It’s been a joy to watch her negotiate this path,” said Robert Rogers, MD, who has been Dr. Bailey’s partner in Fort Worth Allergy & Asthma Associates for more than 30 years. “I was 100% convinced that she would be president of the AMA. Watching her do this, I know that she had that as a goal. There was nothing in her that said there’s going to be a limit, a ceiling that she couldn’t break through.”
Dr. Bailey said she didn’t have her “eye on that prize” early in her career.
“At that point in time, there had never been a female president,” she said. But Richmond family physician Nancy Dickey, MD, winning the office in 1997 “made all the difference for me. That made it all real for me.”
Texas physician leaders say they are proud of their colleague’s accomplishment and very comfortable with her being the face of American medicine in these difficult times.
“Dr. Sue Bailey is one of the most impressive physicians I have ever known, and I’ve known her for many years,” said TMA President Diana L. Fite, MD, of Houston. “She is highly intelligent, she is empathetic, she is down to earth when talking to patients and physicians alike. I cannot imagine a better person to be the president of our highest-level organization, the AMA.”
In COVID-era fashion, Dr. Rogers and Tarrant County Medical Society members and friends staged a drive-by celebration parade at Dr. Bailey’s Fort Worth home early Sunday.
Elected unanimously last year to be the AMA’s 175th president, Dr. Bailey had an aggressive “let doctors be doctors” agenda in mind before COVID-19 struck. She enumerated her targets during her installation speech.
“Insurer and government mandates. Decreasing payments and increasing demands. Burnout and physician suicide,” she said. “And the coronavirus pandemic has made all of these problems more acute.”
Dr. Bailey said involvement in organized medicine is a professional requirement for physicians.
“Taking good care of our patients requires much more from us than the time we spend with them in an exam room,” she said, enlisting her fellow physicians in the “fight against the quagmire of regulation” and “all the familiar tricks” of health insurance companies.
“At times I fear that our nation’s dysfunctional health system is held together only by the oath that we take when we graduate medical school, the pledge to always put the needs and interests of our patients first,” Dr. Bailey said in concluding her remarks.
“We are on a new quest that none of us expected, living and working in a world that may be changed forever, in an angry, divided nation that needs our leadership. But we need not fear the dark times on our journey. We need only to lean on one another, to take care of each other, and to keep our eyes fixed on the horizon.”
Dr. Bailey is the 175th AMA president and the first woman physician to be both TMA president and AMA president. She is the sixth woman physician – and the third in a row – to lead the AMA.
A Houston native, Dr. Bailey received her medical degree with honors as part of the charter class at the Texas A&M University College of Medicine. She completed her residency and fellowship training at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine. Dr. Bailey has been in private practice in Fort Worth since 1988. She is a mother and grandmother, and is married to Fort Worth attorney Doug Bailey.
Look for an in-depth profile of Dr. Bailey and the challenges she faces as AMA president in the July issue of Texas Medicine magazine.