Rohack Inaugurated as New AMA President

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , June 17, 2009

J. James Rohack, MD, dived into the scrum over healthcare reform on Tuesday when he was inaugurated as the 164th president of the American Medical Association.

Rohack, a cardiologist from Bryan, TX, will lead the nation's largest and most powerful physicians' organization at a time of profound change, as the nation undergoes the most concerted push to adopt far-ranging changes to the healthcare delivery system since the Medicare program was adopted in the 1960s.

He replaces Nancy N. Nielsen, MD, who made headlines in her final weeks as AMA president when she defiantly told the New York Times that "we absolutely oppose government control of healthcare decisions or mandatory physician participation in any insurance plan." Nielsen softened her remarks this week, after Obama addressed the group on Monday, and she said "the AMA will figure out a way that can best help the president reach the goals we share, which is affordable health insurance for all Americans."

In his first address before the 250,000-member organization as its president, Rohack told physicians attending the 158th AMA Annual Meeting that a "uniquely American solution" to healthcare reform must deliver "evolutionary change." He renewed the AMA's commitment to healthcare reform that improves access to high-quality, affordable care for all patients.

"I can promise that our AMA is committed to offering guidance, our expertise, the benefits of our relationship with patients, and the powerful voice of our profession, to help the powers that be make the right decisions," Rohack told the gathering. "This is an effort that will define our organization, define our nation and define each and every one of us."

Rohack was first elected to the AMA Board of Trustees in 2001, and he served a term as board chair in 2004-2005. He has chaired the AMA Council on Medical Education and represented the AMA on the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the Accreditation Council on Continuing Medical Education, The Joint Commission, and the National Advisory Council to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. He continues to serve on the Hospital Quality Alliance.

Rohack held leadership positions in Texas, and was first elected to represent Texas physicians in the AMA House of Delegates more than 20 years ago. He is a former president and board member of the Texas Medical Association. Rohack also served as president of the American Heart Association's Texas affiliate.

Rohack is a professor in both the Department of Medicine and the Department of Medical Humanities in Medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, director of the Center for Healthcare Policy at Scott & White, and medical director for system improvement for Scott & White Health Plan in Temple, TX, where he continues his clinical practice.

Rohack completed his undergraduate education with highest honors at the University of Texas at El Paso and earned his medical degree with honors from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in 1980.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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