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Senior Physician Ambassador Program

Background and history

The Senior Physicians Section has paired with the Department of Aging and Community Health at the American Medical Association to develop resources for senior physicians who plan to present to community lay groups on healthcare issues pertinent to seniors.


The Ambassador Program brings together senior physician leaders and community-based organizations to strengthen the understanding of public health issues.  This project is designed to identify resources to assist senior physician volunteers in preparing to present programs in their own communities.  These efforts will help increase collaboration with local physicians as well as to connect to AMA’s advocacy work on expanding community health initiatives.

In this initial phase of the project, the group would like to:

  • Evaluate and disseminate tools and resources to senior physician volunteers who would use these resources in their community at the local level.
  • Help aging patients understand how to improve their own health and that of their families


Why are senior ambassadors needed?

  • Today seniors face new challenges in managing their healthcare needs.  What was once done strictly in a hospital setting, is now managed primarily by the patient themselves in their own homes.
  • Diagnoses that were once fatal in the past are now controllable; allowing a patient to live a longer, more productive life.
  • Chronic conditions demand constant attention and complex treatments that are now handled and managed by the patient.
  • As you know from your practice, physicians can provide direction and well needed information, but may not have time to answer all of a patient's questions.

As a physician senior ambassador, you can help a family understand the reasoning behind following these directions, and provide tips to help navigate the healthcare system, to safely manage the healthcare needs of their loved ones and themselves.

How well are today's older patients doing in managing their own care?

  • Nearly 80 percent of Medicare recipients have at least one chronic condition, with 50 percent having more than one.
  • The average Medicare recipient sees 7 different physicians in one year, and those with 5 or more chronic conditions see an average of 14 different physicians in one year.
  • 50% of Medicare patients with serious chronic disease report  receiving different diagnoses for the same conditions
  • 60% of caregivers of patients with chronic disease report that they have received conflicting advice.
  • 30-60% of patients fail to take medications as prescribed
  • Patient self-reports conclude that only approximately 40 percent of patients feel confident that they can successfully make health behavior changes.  Patient confidence is a strong predictor in successful behavior change.

Clearly, many patients are confused and not doing as well as they should in interpreting medical directions and caring for themselves.  Senior ambassadors with their knowledge can help answer many questions, clear up misunderstandings, and encourage seniors and their families to become better managers and advocates for their own care.

Goals of the program

Goals of the project include providing public outreach tools and educational materials for volunteers to present in their communities:

  1. Develop networks of senior physician volunteers to serve as community health advocates.
  2. Encourage senior physician leadership development at the local level, to address issues of importance to seniors to combat chronic illness.
  3. Help identify speakers who would like to become involved in giving talks.
  4. Encourage senior physicians to expand their roles locally in their community beyond their role as clinicians.

Getting ready to give your presentation

A pre-visit checklist:

The following is a suggested checklist to help you plan your ‘Senior Physicians Ambassador Program’ visit.  By planning ahead, you can help ensure that you will be able to focus on the required task of presenting.

Identify your group – 3 to 4 week in advance of your visit:

  • Identify a community organization that would see value in a presentation from a senior doctor.
  • Arrange a time and date with the head of this organization for a visit.  Be sure to note the date and time, as well as the directions and room for your presentation.
  • Let the AMA know about your visit by e-mailing, alice.reed@ama-assn.org or calling (312) 464-5523.  We would like to help track and monitor your program as well as assist you with preparation, resources, etc.
  • The AMA can also help prepare you with a media alert, to help in promoting your event.  The more planned out the visit is, the more the AMA will be able to help promote this event for you.

2 weeks before your visit:

  • Start thinking about the presentation you will be giving to your group.
  • Consider what, if any, props you might like to bring along with you.  Any item that will promote interest with your target audience.
  • Be sure to verify the person in charge, and whether or not you would need any special audiovisual equipment to give your talk.

1 week before your visit:

  • Confirm the date and time of your visit with the organization’s director.
  • Find out where you will be parking at, and whom to ask for when you arrive.
  • Ask about any special security procedures.  Will you need to have identification to enter the location you will be speaking at?

Tips for a successful presentation

A simple goal to remember, you are presenting to to help expand your lay  audience’s healthcare knowledge, to help them feel comfortable and ready to think about and discuss topics that are difficult and sometimes frightening.

  1. When you arrive, familiarize yourself with the room you will be speaking in.
  2. Know the audience you are going to speak to beforehand, to know their interest in the program you are going to present.
  3. Review your slides in advance.
  4. Consider bringing items with you as props, that might engage the audience members to ask additional questions.
  5. Have someone introduce you, which will help establish a connection with you and the audience members.
  6. Remember to relax and be yourself.
  7. Concentrate on the message, which is self-help for their medical needs.
  8. Involve your audience, and encourage them to ask questions.
  9. Lastly - Relax, and enjoy your presentation when you’re giving it.

Resources available

Useful background information:

  1. Gadon MD, MPH, Margaret (2007). Revisiting the Social Contract: Physicians as Community Health Promoters. Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice and Policy. Volume 4, No.
  2. National Institute on Aging Web site - Health/Information/Offers - provides information and tips on healthy aging, care giving, medication and diseases.

PowerPoint slides

PowerPoint slides developed by other senior physicians that may be helpful – you may use all or part of these presentations, or add/insert your own slides, talking points, as appropriate for your audience members:


Staying Young: Tips for Healthy Living

Living Long, Going Strong

Directions for presenters to download author's notes for slide presentations

Pictures from Senior Physician Group Presentations

Joel Reed
Dr. Joel Reed, Harris County Medical Society Retired Physician Board Member addresses City of Houston park patrons (September 2010)

Harris County Medical
Harris County Medical Society Retired Physician speakers bureau committee members review evaluation forms after first presentation (September 2010)

Provide feedback

We would like to hear from you and offer assistance at any point in developing your program. We would hope to be able to share what you and we have learned with the other senior physician ambassador volunteers. If you have programs that you have developed and would like to share with others, please let us know. If you chose to try out any of these in the library above, please provide us your feedback as to ways these presentations can be improved.

If you would like to ask your audience for feedback, you may wish to use a form, and we have included a sample one here:

Evaluation form for feedback on your event

Become a senior ambassador today!

This program allows senior physicians to be a source of information about healthcare issues in their own communities.  By participating, you have an opportunity to give back to the community in which you live, helping senior physicians live longer and more productively.


Please contact Alice Reed, at alice.reed@ama-assn.org; or (312) 464-5523.