University of Rochester

Rochester Review
May-June 2010
Vol. 72, No. 5

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HEALTH CAREPutting Patients FirstAMA president says goals for reform should focus on patients.By Becky Jones
amaAMA: “Health system reform is just a step. It’s not the final step,” says Rohack. (Photo: Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

A key player in efforts to reform the nation’s health system knows that the legislation approved by Congress this winter isn’t perfect. But James Rohack, the president of the American Medical Association, told Rochester’s future physicians that the law is the first part of a historic effort that will help improve the system over time.

“The AMA’s goal with health system reform was to make the system better for our patients,” Rohack, a cardiologist, told a gathering of medical students during an April visit to the Medical Center. “And if you make it better for the patients, it’ll be better for physicians. . . . Churchill said, ‘America will get it right—once they’ve tried everything else.’ And that’s where we are. Health system reform is just a step. It’s not the final step. And we will continue to evolve our health care system.”

During his visit, Rohack, a native of East Rochester, spoke with audiences about reform, the AMA’s efforts to represent physicians in the reform process, and the future of health care. He delivered the Department of Emergency Medicine’s annual Shapiro Lecture, and he visited a kindergarten class at Rochester’s School 23, where his niece is a teacher.

While he acknowledged that the new law is not perfect—failing, for example, to address the way Medicare funding is calculated—he credited the Obama administration with bringing the AMA into the reform process early and in recognizing that including language to limit medical malpractice lawsuits was a key requirement for reform.

He said the AMA has long acknowledged the need to be involved in federal policy discussions. “The principle is clear: We have an obligation to respect the law, but also to seek changes in those laws that are contrary to the best interests of the patient.”

To view Rohack’s talk with Rochester medical students, visit