A new face, a new day for our AMA

A message to all physicians from the chair of the AMA Board of Trustees, Duane M. Cady, MD.

By Duane M. Cady, MDis a general surgeon who was in private practice for 35 years in Syracuse, N.Y. He served as chair of the AMA Board of Trustees during 2005-06. Posted Sept. 5, 2005.

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The new AMA look is not only attractive, it's attracting. The new look draws attention from many quarters that have not heard or seen much of the AMA for some time.

The other day, my daughter, Jann, who is vice president for nursing at Hinsdale (Ill.) Adventist Hospital, pointed out the AMA print ad in U.S. News & World Report's top U.S. hospital edition.

She said, "That's really impressive that the AMA would honor a hero in medicine in a well-known magazine like that."

She's not alone. Colleagues and patients all over the country are noting a new AMA presence, reminded of our fundamental commitment to helping doctors help patients.

Last month, when the president of the United States expressed the nation's gratitude to health care professionals and others who rallied to the relief of tsunami victims in Southeast Asia, the AMA was there.

A few days later, when the president signed landmark patient safety legislation, the AMA was there. In fact, the president singled out the AMA for special recognition for its efforts.

In the press, on the air waves and in countless other ways, the AMA is there, as well, spelling out loud and clear the AMA's proud history and heritage, connecting with patients and physicians, ordinary citizens and opinion leaders.

But it isn't just about a new image. Instead, this added visibility only elevates the AMA's years-long efforts to rally both physicians and their patients to shape the future of health care in America.

Already, 700,000 individual Americans have enrolled in our grassroots activist efforts. Upcoming media aimed at patients, who already hold the Association in high esteem, will encourage them to start a dialogue with their physicians about the role the AMA plays in impacting the most important issues facing medicine today.

Last month, the AMA National House Call alerted Americans to the impending crisis in Medicare resulting from draconian physician payment cuts. These visits created large-scale, positive visibility in six key states.

Issues-based advertising is reaching members of Congress through their hometown papers. An all-physician mailing this fall will further mobilize physicians from coast to coast to urge positive action to fix the fatally flawed Medicare physician payment system.

Radio advertisements capture "The AMA Doctor Visit" on hundreds of stations coast to coast, reminding listeners not only of good health habits but also of the AMA's presence on their behalf.

Television ads this fall tell real stories about real patients cared for by AMA member-physicians, reminding the nation of the enormous role everyday heroes play in their everyday lives.

And membership print ads remind America that the AMA is fighting to ensure that these hero-physicians can continue to deliver quality care to their patients, even in the face of various legislative and financial challenges.

Finally, the new campaign embraces the entire Federation as we share the creative materials with our member organization partners. Sample brochures, ads and mailing inserts can be tailored for local use, adding momentum to the overall campaign and providing an economical way for all levels of organized medicine to work together more strongly.

Of course, effective communication is two-way communication. To that end, the AMA's Member Survey program allows members to voice their views on the biggest issues facing medicine, and to help shape the AMA's activities concerning them. Please look in the current issue of AMA Voice for a copy of the latest members-only survey that is helping set the AMA's Health Care Agenda for 2006.

And for those members who like to share their input face to face, Member Connect Roundtables have been convened in five cities thus far with 10 more state visits scheduled between now and year end.

Specialists in Internet communications technology are hard at work creating new interfaces that will customize a member's connection and open electronic dialogue to help us understand the needs of each individual member.

Whenever I see or hear a new AMA advertisement, read an AMA quote in the press or see any of the new AMA materials, I'm reminded of the old Madison Avenue adage:

It's not an ad, it's a process.

No single ad, no one brochure will create a reputation or enhance a brand's standing. But as an AMA member works with his or her colleagues, each element of the campaign works together with others to make the whole stronger, to demonstrate to physicians and patients alike that the AMA is working hard to shape health care in America.

By celebrating the profession and by demonstrating our tireless work to impact the focused set of critical issues facing the profession, this campaign allows us to reach out to new members while reinforcing the value of AMA membership for existing members.

It's not just about a new face for the AMA. It's about a new day for all of us. Write or e-mail me with your thoughts about the AMA's "new face" and new motto, "Together we are stronger."

Duane M. Cady, MD is a general surgeon who was in private practice for 35 years in Syracuse, N.Y. He served as chair of the AMA Board of Trustees during 2005-06.

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