Duane Maynard Cady, M.D.: Dialogue with an Adventist physician and chair of the American Medical Association

Duane Maynard Cady, M.D., is a husband, father, grandfather, church member, and surgeon. Since July 2005, he is also the chair of the board of the American Medical Association (AMA), holding the top elected position in this influential 250,000-member professional organization that shapes health-care services for 300 million Americans. The AMA is the oldest and most influential medical organization in the United States.

Dr. Cady, who has been involved with the AMA since 1966, received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Atlantic Union College and a medical degree from Loma Linda University's School of Medicine. He completed his residency at the State University of New York, Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse. Dr. Cady is also a former captain of the U.S. Army Medical Corps and served as an army surgeon in Vietnam.

Dr. Cady has worked as medical staff president, chair of the department of surgery, and member of the board of trustees at St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse, New York. He is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, a diplomat of the National Board of Medical Examiners, and a member of Alpha Omega Alpha National Honor Society. He has also served as chair of the New York State Medicaid Managed Care Advisory Council and was a member of the governor's Task Force on Hospital Reimbursement Reform.

Over the years, Dr. Cady has used his leadership skills to serve the Adventist Church. He has helped pastors present smoking-cessation programs in the community, served on the church board and finance committee, and been chairman of the Parkview Junior Academy Board. Dr. Cady currently serves on the board of trustees at Atlantic Union College, where he is heading the college's $25-million capital campaign for the development of the institution.

As head of the AMA, Dr. Cady spends much of his time in councils, commissions, health-care policy development sessions, and comparing notes with congressional leaders. Once his AMA term expires in 2007, Dr. Cady plans to retire from organized medicine after a career spanning more than 40 years.

You first became involved in the AMA in 1966 shortly after beginning your surgery practice. What led you to get involved with this professional organization? And how has it shaped your career?

I wouldn't say that AMA has shaped my career, but it has added another dimension to it and rounded it out. It has also given me the opportunity to meet all kinds of people. Most physicians join professional organizations for the contacts and the benefits they derive, such as group insurance; but I have always felt that being involved in professional organizations, such as AMA, is part of my obligation as a doctor. Although I joined AMA in 1966, I was involved primarily with my state and county medical associations for most of the time until 1992. It was then that I got really involved with AMA.

What is the most important issue that you have dealt with in the area of medical care?

The number one public issue I have dealt with, and continue to deal with, is how to provide health insurance to the uninsured. There are more than 45 million uninsured people in America–a fact that has indisputable economic and social consequences.

The second most important issue is tort reform–or medical liability reform. Our nation's medical liability system is broken. Skyrocketing medical liability premiums–$200,000 a year or more in some high-risk specialties–are forcing physicians to limit services, retire early, or move to a state with reforms where liability insurance premiums are more stable. The crisis is threatening access to care for patients in states without liability reforms.

Do you think it is important for Adventists to be involved in advocacy and stay informed about social and political issues?

The Bible says, “Render…to Caesar the things that are Caesar's.” I do think we have a responsibility to be involved, even if it is just at the most basic level of voting. How involved you get depends upon the individual. It is all part of good citizenship.

You have said your “mission” in life is health care. Can you explain?

Taking care of patients isn't just my goal as a doctor, but it is my personal mission. Some physicians look at it differently and often allow other priorities to get in the way of taking care of patients. I believe that medicine is a “calling”–even for the non-Christian.

Do you have opportunities to share your faith even as you carry on your work?

Yes, through the people and groups I meet and interact with. My fellow AMA board members know that I am a Christian as well. I also lead out in church programs in the community.

How do you maintain a balance between your spiritual life and your busy schedule?

My personal devotion time each day is an important part of that. I also believe that being active in my church is an integral part of my spiritual life–fellowship, leading out in Sabbath school, being a church elder are all part of that.

When you were a student and pursuing your medical studies, what challenges did you face?

The sheer volume of material one has to learn is the biggest challenge for most medical students. It has become even more difficult now because today, there is much more information to learn. When I was a student, I studied every night, except Friday, and for hours. That can be difficult when you are married or have kids. Many medical students find it very challenging to keep up their family life. The divorce rate is very high among medical students.

What advice would you give to a young Adventist pursuing a career as a doctor?

First, make sure you do as well as you can in medical school and learn all you can in your postgraduate residency training. Always remember that medicine is a life-long learning experience. Second, pick a field or specialty that you are actually interested in and will enjoy. Don't select it just because it pays the most money. You are going to be doing this for the next 40 years, so you better enjoy it. Third, stick with it despite the challenges. The medical field is hard and demanding, and it can be stressful, but to me it also is the most satisfying.

Nicole Batten is the publicity director at Pacific Press in Nampa, Idaho. You can reach Dr. Duane Cady by writing the American Medical Association, 515 N. State Street, Chicago, Illinois 60610, U.S.A. To learn more about the AMA, visit their website at www.ama-assn.org.