Upon his appointment to lead the AHA, members were afraid Davidson wanted to take rate-setting nationally. Staffers based in Chicago also worried about their future, as Davidson became the first AHA president based out in Washington. But even though Davidson says the Chicago employees “were scared to death we were going to move everything to Washington,” he alleviated their fears. And he also reassured hospitals that he wasn't necessarily interested in pushing the Maryland rate-setting model onto the rest of the country.
“What we did in Maryland was our way to deal with problems,” Davidson says. “It didn't mean that it could work in other states.”
Davidson also encouraged gender and ethnic diversity, something Carmela Coyle, the current president and CEO of the Maryland association knows firsthand. She calls Davidson a mentor, having met him while working at the AHA.
“As a young executive, as a woman executive, being part of this team, he was not only fair and respectful, but he always made himself available for the extra time needed to help me, to coach me,” she says.
Former AHA board Chairman Gary Mecklenburg echoes Coyle's thoughts, saying that the need to do the right thing always guided Davidson.
“He is a great developer of people, and that was reflected in both the teams he assembled at the AHA as well as larger issues,” Mecklenburg says.
Davidson remained much more comfortable talking about the work of others, rather than his own accomplishments, Mecklenburg adds.
Coyle reflects on the early years of Davidson's leadership at the AHA, which led into President Bill Clinton's first term. Gearing the AHA into more of an advocacy role was important as the Clinton administration began sowing the seeds for its attempt at healthcare reform.
Davidson always kept an eye on the future, says Richard Wade, his former press liaison at the AHA. Davidson's push in the 1990s for community-care networks can be considered the forerunner to the developing accountable care model, Wade maintains.