James L. Madara, MD, was introduced Thursday as the next executive vice president/CEO of the American Medical Association. He vowed to "refocus" the nation's largest, oldest physicians' organization on its "core mission" of promoting medicine and the public health.
Madara, 60, a pathologist and the former CEO of the University of Chicago Medical Center, takes over an organization that has struggled with declining and fractious membership over the past several years, especially after the AMA's controversial decision last year to support healthcare reform.
In addition, the AMA has failed to secure a permanent fix for its top priority -- the nettlesome annual Sustainable Growth Rate fight, and that has left physicians staring at a potential 29.5% Medicare reimbursement cut in 2012. That has left many questioning the AMA's lobbying skills in Washington, DC.
Speaking with a handful of reporters during a Thursday teleconference, Madara offered few details on how he will address those and other pressing issues when he takes over the AMA's top administrative job on July 1.
When asked, for example, how he hopes to increase AMA membership, Madara spoke at length but offered no specifics. "What keeps physicians bound to a group is largely the reason why they entered the field to begin with, and that is to provide care for those that are ill and keep those that are healthy, healthy," he said. "This is an enduring feature of the field. With the current uncertainty, addressing this uncertainty with physicians' passions is important and it lines up exactly with the mission statement to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health. That mission statement and activities that align physicians' voices so they reflect the altruistic reasons for which they entered medicine will be the binding agent that keeps the group together and attracts people to the AMA."
When pressed on specific plans to boost AMA membership, such as advertising campaigns or membership drives, Madara said: "We are going to work on the substantive questions that are the big issues for physicians in general. For example when one looks at the plan for 2011 on our Web site, the issues of quality, the issues of access, the issues of creating a situation where physicians have sustainable practices are first and foremost on our minds."