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Wah wins vote to become AMA president-elect

By Andis Robeznieks
Posted: June 18, 2013 - 1:45 pm ET

Dr. Robert Wah, a former deputy national coordinator for health information technology at HHS, was elected president-elect of the American Medical Association, defeating Dr. Joseph Annis, an anesthesiologist from Austin, Texas.

“I greatly appreciate the trust my colleagues have placed in me during this important time for our profession and our healthcare system,” Wah said in a news release. “Working together I know we can make significant strides in reducing chronic disease, educating future physicians and improving how care is provided to our patients.”

The AMA does not release the vote counts in elections.

Wah, 55, served more than 23 years with the U.S. Navy Medical Corps, and he now practices and teaches reproductive endocrinology and obstetrics and gynecology at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He is also chief medical officer for Computer Sciences Corp.'s public sector.

Wah, who served as chairman of the AMA's board of trustees from June 2011 to June 2012, will take over as president at next year's meeting of the AMA House of Delegates.

Wah and Annis debated on Saturday, the opening day of the AMA House of Delegates meeting, and they were asked about the AMA's support for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Annis noted that the AMA never supported all of the law—particularly the creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board.

Wah said the AMA was "past the point" of arguing about it, noting that "it is the law of the land and has been reaffirmed.”

In his opening statement during the debate, Wah mentioned how his father came to the U.S. as a young boy from China. Whenever he feels challenged, Wah said he remembers how his father him told that, since he will stand out, he needs to strive to be outstanding.

In his closing statement of the debate, Wah recalled how recently he was at a meeting in Dallas when he was called upon to give someone emergency medical care and rode with the patient to the Parkland Hospital emergency department. Wah said he knew many other physicians in the audience had been called upon to do the same thing.

“You and I know the call: 'Is there a doctor in the house?' ” Wah said. “This is what makes our profession stand above the rest. When was the last time anybody heard is there a lawyer in the house? Will an MBA please come to the back of the airplane?"

In an interview, Annis wished Wah well and also noted that it was 50 years ago since his father, Dr. Edward Annis, was sworn in as AMA president.

“His reverence for our profession, and affection and respect for this House of Delegates—its people and its process—rubbed off on me,” Annis said. “I share the same sentiments for this profession and house of medicine.”

Annis, who has one year left in his term on the AMA board, said that he flies home to Texas on Wednesday and then the next day he will get in his car and start driving to his part-time job as an adjunct professor with the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.

While meeting with the various AMA caucuses in his election bid, Annis said some of the key messages he heard were the need to maintain the viability of private practices and, along with it, some aspect of fee-for-service payment.

“We should have a plurality in the way physicians practice, a plurality in the way physicians are paid, and patients should have a plurality of choices of how they receive their healthcare.”

Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks


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