Annual Meeting

Dr. Madara turns focus to effective transition to next AMA CEO

Andis Robeznieks , Senior News Writer

The AMA’s position as the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care “has never been more secure—nor more evident,” AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James L. Madara, MD, said during his speech at the opening session of the 2024 AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago.

The AMA has also achieved “outstanding financial stability” and membership has “climbed to levels not seen for decades.” With this and many more positive factors in mind, Dr. Madara announced that he will not seek to renew his contract when it expires next June and that his focus “now shifts to ensuring a smooth and effective transition to the next CEO.”

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“When ruminating on such a transition, my initial thought naturally drifted toward organizational accomplishment—financial, strategic and operational,” Dr. Madara told delegates. “But in studying the history of such transitions, it becomes clear that legacy is also defined by the quality of the handoff to the next CEO—the extent to which support is given, assistance provided, in any way sought—whatever best positions the AMA for ongoing success.” (Read Dr. Madara’s  complete remarks.)

Dr. Madara took over as the AMA’s CEO in 2011, succeeding Michael Maves, MD, who he credited for stabilizing the AMA’s finances and operations. This stability allowed Dr. Madara to concentrate on developing a policy-driven strategic plan with focus and impact—one that has allowed the AMA to flourish in recent years.

“Our reach has never been greater,” he said.

The plan was implemented starting in 2012 and during his speech at the 2022 AMA Interim Meeting, Dr. Madara reflected on the three-pronged strategy’s decade of success in removing obstacles that interfere with patient care, confronting chronic disease and driving professional development.

In 2024, this means leading the charge to reform the Medicare payment system.

“We strongly lean against outdated payment frameworks that interfere with, rather than support, patient care,” he said.

The strategic plan has also helped the AMA step up to the challenge of reducing physician burnout, maintaining a strong physician voice in the face of increasing health care consolidation, “and wrestling to keep both corporate interests and political actors out of the exam room so that the patient-physician relationship remains sacrosanct,” Dr. Madara said.

“Perhaps the major accomplishment of the AMA over the last many years has been to cement our reputation as a mission-driven organization with impact—not simply a trade organization,” he added. “That returns us to the roots of our founding in 1847, when we led medicine away from quackery and toward care driven by a foundation of medical ethics.” 

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Dr. Madara noted that making technology work for physicians and “defining the appropriate and productive role for health care technology” has been a growing focus of the AMA.

This includes growing the AMA’s Silicon Valley venture studio, Health2047, which has spun out nine companies. He noted that the AMA‘s original investment in those companies has already been matched ten times over by investments from others.

Dr. Madara also mentioned the huge potential for augmented intelligence (AI)—often called artificial intelligence—to benefit physicians and patients.

Use of AI-enabled health care tools “will transform what we do,” Dr. Madara said.

The AMA has worked to ensure that these tools are designed, developed and deployed with physician input and in a manner that is ethical, equitable and responsible. This includes maintaining that the use of AI in health care is transparent to both physicians and patients.

“While it’s important that we avoid related harms that could emerge, it’s equally important that we don’t fall into a defensive crouch,” Dr. Madara said. “While avoiding harms, we need to maximize AI and other emerging tools for the benefit of our patients and to grasp the promise of these transformations—in other words, to play offense with these tools as well as defense.”

“While I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together in my time here, my focus now shifts to ensuring a smooth and effective transition to the next CEO,” Dr. Madara said.

Michael Suk, MD, JD, MPH, MBA, the incoming chair of the AMA Board of Trustees, will organize the search for Dr. Madara’s successor.

Read Dr. Madara’s AMA Leadership Viewpoints column, posted Wednesday, that explores why building the AMA’s momentum requires a smooth handoff. Also, check out this AMA fact sheet (PDF) regarding Dr. Madara’s tenure as CEO.