CHICAGO: The American Medical Association has made two key hires as part of a restructuring of its communications and marketing team that it hopes will revitalize the 165-year-old trade organization.
The group wants the reorganization to “restore some relevance to what we do” for both the medical community and patients, said Rodrigo Sierra, chief communications and marketing officer at the AMA.
Another goal is to ensure the marcomms team is best suited to implement AMA CEO James Madara's ideas. Last summer, Madara announced a strategic plan focused on improving health outcomes, accelerating change in medical education, and enhancing physician satisfaction and practice sustainability by shaping delivery and payment models.
Five employees have left AMA as part of the reorganization, though none were senior staffers, according to the group. Sierra hopes to make several hires in the coming months to bring the headcount to more than 40 in the marketing and communications units.
One new arrival is Debbie Harvey, who left her role as executive director in the Chicago healthcare practice of GolinHarris to become VP of alignment strategy, a new position at the organization. She will lead AMA efforts to create an organization-wide approach to marketing and communications and manage a team of six.
Sierra said he considers Harvey and her growing team “the backbone of my organization.”
“People across AMA are used to working a certain way, and we are trying to get them to think differently about what they are doing and engage communications and marketing members from the beginning of their initiatives,” he said.
Sierra referred to Harvey's team as “catalysts” that will be at the table in the early stages of developing initiatives and ensure the appropriate AMA staff is brought on at the right time. They will also track metrics.
“It's quite a tall task but an exciting one," Harvey said.
Her team has three openings, including a director position, which Sierra said she plans to fill in the coming months.
Justin DeJong has also joined the organization as VP for editorial and channel strategy, a repositioning of the group's VP of communications position. He most recently worked as director of public affairs at the US Department of Agriculture.
DeJong will help AMA ensure it is using the best platforms across print, digital, and live events to convey messages. He will oversee a team responsible for traditional and new media, digital and social engagement, and the creation of content for the AMA's website and all other media platforms.
For now, Sierra is focusing on strengthening internal capabilities. He said he is open to eventually hiring a PR AOR to help it meet goals, centralizing the work it now does with agencies on a project basis.
Farah Bulsara Speer, executive director and recently appointed North American healthcare lead at Golin, said Harvey “was a strong client-relationship leader and mentor to junior staff.”