Doctors are leaving the American Medical Association in droves. The trade group once represented two-thirds of the nation’s physicians, but after years of declining numbers, they are down to about 25 percent. And market share is even lower among young medical professionals. Only 17 percent of physicians under age 40 are AMA members — bad news for those concerned with the long-term health of the organization.

There are a variety of reasons why the doctors are jumping ship, but the most important factor seems to be a perception that the AMA is more interested in its own well-being than the needs of its members.

Officials with the AMA should read the latest issue of Pool & Spa News to see how trade associations can do it right. (I realize how arrogant that sounds, but hey, they’re the ones with the problem.) Starting with our news coverage is a story about the success of this year’s Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show. Once again, NESPA has delivered an event that perfectly combines education, networking opportunities and a host of new products directly relevant to our industry.

In another article, we discuss recent findings of the National Plasterers Council’s ongoing research into spot etching. This hugely ambitious project is just one example of the NPC’s steadfast commitment to its members, a commitment that has caused the group’s numbers to nearly triple in recent years.

Finally, there’s a piece on FSPA’s hiring of a lobbyist to help the industry negotiate the morass of codes introduced in the state legislature. This move has received such strong support that members are writing checks for $250 on top of their regular dues to finance the new position.

Of course, it’s much easier to represent a small, regionalized group of pool and spa professionals than it is to fulfill the interests of a nation of doctors. But I believe that if a trade group starts with the question, “What are my members’ needs, and how can we serve them?” and then lives and dies by the answers, the battle is already half won.

NESPA, NPC and FSPA are living proof of this philosophy. They are to be commended.

Erika Taylor