AMA's brand statement: What we do and who we are

A message to all physicians from the chair of the AMA Board of Trustees, J. James Rohack, MD.

By J. James Rohack, MDis senior staff cardiologist at the Scott & White Clinic in Temple, Texas. He was AMA president during 2009-10 and served as chair of the AMA Board of Trustees during 2004-05. Posted Dec. 6, 2004.

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In Texas, when you mention a brand, what you're referring to is a cow's return address. If a brand is not marked clearly, however, the locals call it a "quien sabe" brand, which means, in plain English, "Who knows?"

So what does a cow's brand mark -- clear or otherwise -- have to do with the American Medical Association, you ask?

Everything. The AMA has been taking a long hard look at itself, through the eyes of physicians, and we've discovered that our organizational brand too often inspires a "quien sabe" response. Physicians are not clear about what we stand for or what we do, and this fact has to change. Which means the AMA has to change.

It's true that we have been working tirelessly for medicine on a number of fronts -- state and federal advocacy, professional standard setting, public health, private sector reform and medical publishing. Yet according to our research, nonmembers and even members have felt disconnected from what we do -- and who we are.

The AMA wants to reconnect. We want to open a two-way conversation with you, so we can become a true champion for medicine.

The process of transformation has already begun.

We've started by creating a new brand statement, based on what you told us you wanted us to be: "The AMA helps doctors help their patients by uniting physicians nationwide to work on the most important professional and public health issues. Together we will play an active role in shaping the future of medicine."

This brand statement will guide and inspire us in the days ahead, as we transform the AMA into a member-centered organization that deserves your loyalty and trust.

But we know that words alone are not enough; they simply point the way. If we're going to bring our AMA brand statement to life, we need to start connecting with you and with the challenges of your practice on a regular basis.

And we are.

In recent months, we started a new, ongoing survey program, called Member Connect. More then 8,000 physician members responded to our first advocacy survey. They told us their primary advocacy concerns were medical liability, Medicare payment and administrative hassles, the public health and the uninsured -- in that order. These are the advocacy issues you told us you wanted us to focus on -- and that's what we're doing.

Many of you have received this survey and the two others that we recently sent to members. But if you did not, or if you misplaced or recycled one or all, we promise you that additional chances to participate are right on the horizon.

Come the first quarter of 2005, we'll be surveying members again.

Keep an eye on your mailboxes, both physical and virtual, as well as the AMA Member Connect Web page (link). We'll be asking you what you think on a regular basis. It's just one way to make sure that the AMA stays focused on what you think are the most important professional and public health issues.

For some of you, however, filling out a survey may not be enough. A number of members have asked us to put a human face on our AMA, and so we have piloted a new member program called the AMA Member Connect Roundtables.

Thus far we have held two of these face-to-face forums -- one in Detroit, one in Philadelphia. Fifteen more are in the works even as I write. All of them are aimed at giving you, or any physician member who wants to attend, the chance to tell AMA leaders and senior executives about what's most important to health care -- and to you.

You can learn more about whether we're coming to your area by calling 800-262-3211, x5383. If we're not coming to where you live, but you still want to see us, just contact us at this same number. Together we can organize an AMA Roundtable Forum at a town near you.

Should you choose to attend, I promise we'll be listening carefully.

A moment of truth has come for organized medicine. In these challenging times for our profession, we can no longer afford to have our members respond, "Quien sabe?" when questioned about the AMA and what it represents.

It's time for us to stake our claim for the hearts and the loyalty of America's physicians and their patients.

It's time for us to make our brand reflect what we truly are -- which is you.

Physicians caring for and about patients. Physicians making our health system work. Physicians working together to create a better future for human health. Because together, we are stronger.

J. James Rohack, MD is senior staff cardiologist at the Scott & White Clinic in Temple, Texas. He was AMA president during 2009-10 and served as chair of the AMA Board of Trustees during 2004-05.

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