Many new ways to participate in the AMA

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 June 6, 2005.

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Something radical happened at AMA headquarters this spring. More than 24,000 AMA members (perhaps you were one of them) received a phone call from an AMA employee or a Board of Trustees member, asking them to renew their memberships and to work with us as we transform our Association for the better.

This first-ever membership telethon provides a glimpse of the cultural shift taking place at our AMA. We are creating an organization that is truly member-focused, an organization based on the idea that our AMA exists to help doctors help patients.

Yet to truly transform our AMA, we first have to recommit ourselves to connecting with the physicians of America, and we have developed a number of innovative new programs and strategies to do just that.

To start, we're focusing on improving the quality of our interactions with you by implementing new customer relationship management tools and processes. What does this mean, exactly? It means everything from being more responsive when you call or write us to communicating with you in the format you prefer, whether that means contacting you by e-mail, snail mail, phone or in person.

Second, we're committed to getting your input and using it to shape our AMA agenda and activities. One of the primary ways we are doing this is through our Member Connect Survey program, which you can access via the Internet (link).

This program already has transformed the way the AMA works. In 2004, AMA members used a Member Connect survey to make their voices heard at the Interim Meeting. This meant that for the first time ever, delegates were able to consider members' opinions on particular resolutions as they debated, shaped and created AMA policy.

At the Annual Meeting in June, members again can use the Member Connect survey program to give the House input as AMA delegates debate health care policy. If you are a member and have not yet completed this survey, it's not too late -- again, please go to our Member Connect Web page.

In addition to these resolution surveys, the AMA has begun using an agenda-setting survey. Members completed the first such survey in July 2004, and their participation helped us establish our seven-point agenda for 2005. Watch the Member Connect Web page for our next agenda-setting survey this summer so that you can help us shape the AMA's direction for 2006.

In the meantime, members continue to use the Member Connect program to share their views on medicine's most important professional and public health issues, such as the medical liability crisis and the plight of the uninsured. The impact of these surveys can reach far beyond the AMA. For example, our most recent survey showed that, should an anticipated Medicare payment cut take place in 2006, more than a third of physicians believe that they could no longer afford to accept new Medicare patients. Your voice, made audible through an AMA Member Connect survey, allowed us to make headlines nationally on this important issue.

We also recognize, however, that some of you would like to connect with the AMA in an even more personal way. For that reason, AMA leadership has been meeting with members in their own communities through the AMA Member Connect Roundtable program.

These Roundtable sessions allow AMA members to share their views with AMA trustees and senior staff through interactive, open dialogue. We'll continue to grow this program in 2005 and beyond. In fact, three Member Connect Roundtables for medical students, residents and young physicians will take place at the AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago this month.

Last, but not least, we're not just behaving in new ways, we're also beginning to look (literally) brand new. At the Annual Meeting, we will preview a new brand program, including a new AMA logo and design, as well as new public messages about the work we do.

What's our goal? We're using our brand to proclaim loudly and proudly that we help doctors help patients. That's our mission, our passion and our focus. The patient-physician relationship is at the core of what we do as doctors, and it's the core of what we do as an Association, whether we're working on Capitol Hill or at the grassroots.

As for our new brand program, keep your eyes and ears open. In the days and weeks ahead, we will begin rolling out high-impact advertising and programming that will help unite patients and doctors, as together we change the future of health care.

As Heraclitus noted in 400 BC, the only thing that is constant is change. With that in mind, this column must reflect not just the changes occurring within the AMA's culture, but also the changing of the AMA guard. Soon, Duane Cady, MD, a general surgeon from Syracuse, N.Y., will take over as board chair, and his first column will be published in AMNews this August. J. Edward Hill, MD, a family physician from Tupelo, Miss., likewise will be inaugurated as president, and his president's column will soon appear in these pages. Each of these leaders will bring his own talents to help lead our AMA to the next level.

As for me, I thank you for all the feedback I have received over the last 12 months. It is reassuring to know that these columns have generated some thought from readers.

I also want you to know that although I might not be chair any longer, I will continue to stay active in organized medicine, and I hope you will, too, through the AMA's many new programs. In the meantime, as we say in Texas, "Until we meet again, keep your wagon between the ditches and the lightnin' bugs out of the buttermilk."

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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