T. Michael Bolger, president and chief executive officer of the Medical College of Wisconsin, is the new chairman of the board of directors of the Association of Academic Medical Centers.
Bolger, a lawyer, has led the Milwaukee-based medical school since 1990.
Frank Cerra, M.D., senior vice president for health sciences at the Academic Health Center of the University of Minnesota, is the new chairman-elect of the association. Since 1996, Cerra, a specialist in critical-care surgery, has headed the six schools that make up the center: the schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, public health and veterinary medicine.
More than 100 institutions are members of the AHC. These institutions are the nation's primary resources for education in the health professions, biomedical and health services research, and many aspects of patient care. Each consists of an allopathic or osteopathic school of medicine, at least one other health-professions school or program, and one or more teaching hospitals at major universities throughout the U.S.
New board members are R. Phillip Eaton, M.D., vice president for health sciences, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center; Fred Sanfilippo, M.D., senior vice president for health sciences and dean of the College of Medicine and Public Health at Ohio State University; and Arthur Rubenstein, executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and dean of the School of Medicine.
Bolger said access to healthcare and quality improvement are two major issues the association will confront in his year of leadership, which began Friday.
"We are very concerned about the 43 million to 45 million uninsured in America," Bolger said. "We've adopted a program called 'Why Not Everyone' to stimulate discussion."
Their approach will include educational events, hosting seminars and working with member institutions to develop an academic agenda, including direct lobbying at the federal level, he said.
"I think people are realizing the system is broken and our employer-based healthcare system can no longer stand the strains that are put on it," Bolger said.
According to Bolger, runaway healthcare costs are having a negative impact on the competitiveness of U.S. companies that are up against firms from countries where healthcare is paid for by government programs.
The association wants to be "at the forefront" in the search for an American alternative, he said.
"I think it will have to be incremental, and I think it will have to be nongovernmental, because I don't think Americans want a government-run system," Bolger said.
Bolger also said association members are convinced that high quality healthcare goes hand in hand with lower cost.
"There are some data that as many of 50% of the prescriptions out there are unnecessary," he said. "Maybe we can get our arms around that."
Transparency is an important part of quality, he said. "We want to make sure consumers know where the high-quality health care is. We (in academic medicine) set the gold standard, but we want everybody to achieve the gold standard."