Legacy of NAMC Comes to a Halt, Founding Member Bill Crounse, MD Bids Farewell and AHCJ Open its Doors

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

First, I’d like to say with a very heavy heart how saddened I am by the news of the disbandment of NAMC…

The National Association of Medical Communicators (NAMC) closes its doors after more than two decades of inspiring health professionals to accurately communicate health and medical information to the public.

NAMC has been spearheading its members in broadcast journalism, but succumbs to the pressures to stay vibrant and says farewell.

Amid cutbacks from pharmaceutical sponsors and the changing landscape of broadcast journalism, NAMC shuts its doors, but new opportunities await for former members.

Bruce Bonanno, MD

President of NAMC Bruce Bonanno, MD has this to say in his message to the members,

“This was supposed to be a farewell message ending my term as president, but now is a much bigger farewell as NAMC is coming to an end as an organization.

I am deeply sorry to have to inform the membership that the board of directors has voted to bring to an end the NAMC organization.

This decision was not taken lightly and everything that could be done to keep this organization viable was done.  This is not a sudden development. The financial viability of the organization has been an issue for about 6 years.  It was severely damaged by the change in the pharmaceutical guidelines for sponsorship several years ago, as was the MCC conference to which NAMC was closely aligned…”

Founding member

Bill Crounse, MD

I asked founding member Bill Crounse, MD, Senior Director, Worldwide Health of Microsoft Corporation and Executive Producer, Health Tech Today, in an email how he feels about NAMC disbanding and how media changed over the years.

I asked him if he feels that the changing landscape of health communication, with social media taking center stage has contributed in part to the demise of NAMC.

Bill Crounse, MD replied,

“As one of the founders I am sad to see NAMC shut its doors.  But as you allude to, the “broadcasting” industry has changed a great deal since NAMC was founded.

There was a time when people depended on television and radio to get needed information about health not supplied by their own healthcare professional.

Those of us who worked during those years, truly enjoyed the “golden” age of broadcasting.  When I delivered my health reports on our network affiliates in Seattle or on ABC News and Lifetime Medical Television, people didn’t have the abundance of choice they have today with the Internet and social media.  Getting information about health is pretty easy these days.  Basically, the motivated patient has all of the scientific literature at his or her fingertips and the ability to tap into the collective wisdom of health professionals and fellow patients around the globe.

Having said that; there is still a need for knowledgeable professionals to share their expertise–only the “channels” have changed.  Although I no longer do work on television, I reach thousands of “viewers” through my blog and on-line video programming.  In many ways, my library of content is more accessible today than in the past.  What I publish now is available (and searchable) almost forever vs. the television spot of the past that was viewed once and then forever lost in the ether of the airwaves.

So, perhaps it was time for the chapter to close on NAMC and for something else to emerge that will guide a new generation of health professionals and journalists on ways to share their knowledge with others.  In my day, only the privileged few were granted access to the airwaves.  Today, anyone with a laptop (or Smartphone) and a connection to the Net, can share his or her wisdom with the world.  So I don’t think we should shed tears for NAMC, but perhaps celebrate the amazing technologies that have emerge that are now making it possible for anyone to connect with people around the world.”

As a board member of NAMC, the decision to say good-bye was not an easy one.  While the majority of the board voted to close its doors, I couldn’t walk away with trying to find a home for its members.  NAMC and the American Medical Association (AMA) which ran the medical communications conferences for many years will always have a special place in my heart.

And, Dr. Crounse eloquently spoke his final words for NAMC, is right, we shouldn’t shed tears for NAMC, but celebrate amazing technologies that emerge to make it possible for people to connect around the world.

We now say farewell to NAMC, and yes, its doors are closed, but like Dr. Crounse says, something else will emerge and guide a new generation of health professionals and journalists to share knowledge with others.

And yes, something else has emerged to guide health professionals in health journalism.   Now, the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) opens its doors to former members of NAMC.

Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) Opens its Doors to Former Members of NAMC

Despite the National Association of Medical Communicators closing its doors after a long stint, the Association of Health Care Journalists welcomes new former NAMC members to continue their quest in health communications.

Here’s my letter to the past and present members of NAMC offering them the possibility to continue their quest in health communications:

Dear NAMC friends,

First, I’d like to say with a very heavy heart how saddened I am by the news of the disbandment of NAMC.  As a board member, I can truly say that I did not favor disbanding an organization that has been in existence for many years with amazing people surrounding it.

I’ll never forget my very first medical communications conference in Washington, D.C., and the NAMC members that I met. The support I have received over the years from NAMC members has been heartwarming. Thank you.

There are too many wonderful people to name.  I can’t tell you how much it has meant to me to have had your support. You are truly an amazing group of professionals and I wish you all the best.

Secondly, I would love to continue to collaborate and share ideas.

As I happen to also be a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, I spoke with Len Bruzzese, AHCJ’s executive director. Many of you are already familiar with the organization, which works to constantly improve the accuracy and quality of health reporting to the public. AHCJ has a website with great resources, a blog showing some of the latest health coverage, conferences and workshops with top speakers and a listserv where its 1,000-plus members help
each other on a daily basis.

Len pointed out that recent changes to AHCJ’s membership guidelines could allow more former NAMC members – particularly health professionals who also report – to join AHCJ. He said if there are a sufficient number, the AHCJ annual conference could include more sessions of specific interest to us.

I hope you will take a look at what AHCJ has to offer at Healthjournalism.org.

Thank you all for your time.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me , and Len is willing to take questions about AHCJ as well.

Membership guidelines can be found here.


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the kindness extended by Gary Schwitzer, publisher at HealthNewsReview.org and AHCJ member.  I initially contacted Gary to inquire if there was something that could be done to find a place for the former members of NAMC.  He was kind to connect me with Len Bruzzese, executive director of AHCJ.

I am a huge fan of Gary’s and he has offered his expertise here.  I thank him for his kindness.  Gary’s HealthNewsReview blog can be found here.

Update from ACHJ

For more information, please read “NAMC folds, qualified members invited to AHCJ” by Pia Christensen, ACHJ member.

The 2009/2010 Board of NAMC bids farewell and wishes former NAMC members all the best in their quest for health communications.

President Bruce Bonanno, MD

Vice President Maria Simbra, MD

Secretary/Treasurer Doug Farrago, MD

Immediate Past President Sandy Gordon Director, Public Relations AAOS

Member at Large Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

Member at Large Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, MBA

Member at Large James Keany MD

Member at Large Teresa Knight, MD

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    Hi, Barbara, thanks for letting us know about the unfortunate demise of NAMC. In addition to AHCJ – a stellar organization to which I belong – ReportingonHealth.org, an online community for health journalists and others interested in media coverage of health issues, is available as a resource for former NAMC members. We are the website of the USC/California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships. ReportingonHealth.org is free, nonpartisan, nonprofit and educational. Anyone with questions can email me at editor@reportingonhealth.org.


    Barbara Feder Ostrov
    Deputy Editor, ReportingonHealth.org

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