The blue street signs with a big white "H" that let people know a hospital is nearby carry special meaning for RICHARD DAVIDSON, president of the American Hospital Association.
"The H sign signals to people a promise" for care, says Davidson, 64.
For Davidson, AHA president since 1991, the chance to "represent a set of organizations across America that bring life into this world and ultimately help people end life in a compassionate manner is a very important kind of responsibility."
It's a relationship he has not taken lightly. During his tenure at the AHA, the country's largest hospital trade association has taken on some seemingly impossible tasks. Not the least of those was organizing grass-roots campaigns that persuaded Congress to pass payment relief bills in 1999 and 2000 to give hospitals more than $50 billion in additional funding over a period of six years. These were to make up for cuts imposed by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.
"Everybody said there was no way," says Davidson, who came to the AHA after spending 22 years as president of the Maryland Hospital Association. During his time at the Maryland association, Davidson was actively involved in helping to craft Maryland's highly regulated healthcare system, which set rates for hospital services to try to control costs.
Davidson's decade-long tenure at the AHA also has meant a major overhaul of the national association, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1998. To bolster the AHA's lobbying mission, Davidson shifted much of the association's power to Washington, where he is based, from the organization's longtime headquarters in Chicago, and he slashed the size of the organization's staff to streamline operations.