AMA honors Perry for tort reform efforts

Marilyn Tennissen Mar. 11, 2009, 7:32am

Gov. Rick Perry (R)

For his leadership in reforming Texas' tort system, the American Medical Association honored Gov. Rick Perry with its Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service.

Named for the founding father of the AMA, the award recognizes elected and career officials in federal, state or municipal service whose outstanding contributions have promoted the art and science of medicine and improved public health. The award to Perry and other public officials was presented March 10 in Washington, D.C.

"Through the Nathan Davis Awards, the American Medical Association salutes government officials who go above and beyond the call of duty to improve public health," said AMA Board Chair Joseph M. Heyman, M.D. , in a press release. "Award winners come from every branch of government service and are a testament to the important role public officials play in creating and implementing health policy that benefits Americans."

In 2003, Texas overhauled its laws regarding medical malpractice torts, including the placement of a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages like pain and suffering.

Supporters claim the reforms have resulted in dramatic drop in the number of malpractice suits and an influx of doctors coming to Texas to practice medicine, even in rural and impoverished counties where health care options were lacking.

"The story of healthcare is still being written, but Texas has spearheaded a series of introductory chapters that have changed the tone and direction of the narrative," Gov. Perry said "We decided to tackle problems in the tort system head-on by instituting reforms that cooled off a climate of over-suing and made Texas friendlier to doctors and better for their patients.

"I accept this award on behalf of our leaders who have caught and shared that vision, our healthcare providers who work faithfully in the midst of industry upheaval, and future generations of Texans whose lives will be improved and even saved by their efforts."

The awards were presented in conjunction with the AMA National Advocacy Conference at the Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Physicians from across the nation met with lawmakers to make the case that health care reform is crucial to jumpstarting the economy. They also had the opportunity to meet with U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), White House health care advisor Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel and members of Congress from their home districts about reform efforts.

According to a press release, the AMA supports health care reform that includes a public and private mix of insurance.

"Let's give individuals choices so they can select the appropriate coverage for themselves and their families, and promote fair rules that include protections for high-risk patients and greater individual responsibility," said Dr. Nielsen. "Those who need it most should receive financial assistance to help purchase health insurance."

Gov. Perry was nominated for the Dr. Nathan Davis Award award by the Texas Medical Association, which is a member of the AMA federation.

The governor was one of eight honorees chosen this year, which marks the 20th anniversary of the awards.

The other honorees are:

  • U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.
  • U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga.
  • State Sen. Susan G. Paddack, D-Okla.
  • Jeffrey Runge, M.D., assistant secretary for health affairs and chief medical officer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • D. Joe Boone, Ph.D., associate director for science; National Center for Preparedness, Detection, and Control of Infectious Diseases - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Pamela S. Hyde, cabinet secretary, New Mexico Human Services Department
  • Melba R. Moore, commissioner of health, City of St. Louis Department of Health

    For more information about the awards, visit

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