The National Academy of Medicine provides national and international advice on issues relating to health, medicine, health policy, and biomedical science. It aims to provide unbiased, evidence-based, and authoritative information and advice concerning health and science policy to policy-makers, professionals, leaders in every sector of society, and the public at large.
Operating outside the framework of the U.S. federal government, it relies on a volunteer workforce of scientists and other experts, operating under a formal peer-review system. As a national academy, the organization annually elects new members with the help of its current members; the election is based on the members' distinguished and continuing achievements in a relevant field as well as for their willingness to participate actively.
The institute was founded in 1970, under the congressional charter of the National Academy of Sciences as the Institute of Medicine. On April 28, 2015, NAS membership voted in favor of reconstituting the membership of the IOM as a new National Academy of Medicine and establishing a new division on health and medicine within the NRC that has the program activities of the IOM at its core. These changes took effect on July 1, 2015.
The National Academies attempt to obtain authoritative, objective, and scientifically balanced answers to difficult questions of national importance. The work is conducted by committees of volunteer scientists—leading national and international experts—who serve without compensation. Committees are composed in an attempt to assure the requisite expertise and to avoid bias or conflict of interest. Every report produced by committee undergoes extensive review and evaluation by a group of external experts who are anonymous to the committee, and whose names are revealed only once the study is published. Victor Dzau is President and Chairman of the Council. His six-year term began on July 1, 2014. The Leonard D. Schaeffer Executive Officer is J. Michael McGinnis.
The majority of studies and other activities are requested and funded by the federal government. Private industry, foundations, and state and local governments also initiate studies, as does the academy itself. Reports are made available online for free by the publishing arm of the United States National Academies, the National Academies Press, in multiple formats.
The academy is both an honorific membership organization and a policy research organization. Its members, elected on the basis of their professional achievement and commitment to service, serve without compensation in the conduct of studies and other activities on matters of significance to health. Election to active membership is both an honor and a commitment to serve in Institute affairs. The bylaws specify that no more than 80 new members shall be elected annually, including 10 from outside the United States. The announcement of newly elected members occurs at the Annual Meeting in October. As of October 20, 2015, the number of regular members plus international and emeritus members is 2,012. An unusual diversity of talent among NAM members is assured by the charter stipulation that at least one-quarter be selected from outside the health professions, from such fields as the natural, social, and behavioral sciences, as well as law, administration, engineering, and the humanities.
The New York Times called the NAM (then called the IOM) the United States' "most esteemed and authoritative adviser on issues of health and medicine, and its reports can transform medical thinking around the world."