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Max Rothman ’62 has transformed Alliance for Aging into award-winning advocacy group

Only two years into his tenure as president and CEO of Alliance for Aging in Miami, Max Rothman ’62 is already seeing the fruits of his efforts to restructure the organization and institute a new strategic approach.

The organization, which oversees the distribution of $60 million from federal and state programs annually, received the 2009 Aging Innovations Award from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

“The award was for something we called Team Miami, a community partnership for evidence-based solutions for improving elders’ health,” says Rothman, whose agency serves Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. “We focused on implementing a Hispanic health disparities initiative focusing on diabetes among Hispanics in two areas of Miami that have the greatest number of preventable hospitalizations for diabetes. We put together a team that represented the community, health care professionals, and aging services professionals, and what was innovative is that it had never happened before.”

Helping those who need advocates in the public arena has always been an interest for Rothman, who served in the Peace Corps in Venezuela from 1966-68.

“We were most excited about trying to get the city involved in putting in roads and locating sites for schools, health clinics, and other public services,” he says. “All property that was unoccupied was owned by the city, and the poor people in those days would just throw up a shack in those poor barrios. There might be large areas of standing water, might not be canals, no orderly planning for schools, clinics, or other public services. We managed to get the city fathers to work with state government and actually put in and locate on maps the sites or put in the roads and other community resources. We also re-did garbage collection routes so that they picked up the garbage.”

As executive director of a program on public policy and aging at Florida International University in Miami, Rothman found himself drawn to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, serving on an advisory group to evaluate how funds for aging programs would be distributed. Television news coverage did not prepare him for the damage he found in the hardest-hit areas.

“The overwhelming concern we found from both professionals in the field of aging and taking tours and talking to people out in the neighborhood was housing,” he recalls. “You had to be there. It was more dramatic to see devastated homes personally and imagine the trauma that went on in trying to deal with what had happened. Homes were very short distances from these canals that overflowed and broke. Wholesale neighborhoods were totally destroyed. It was a personally satisfying experience to influence funding after the immediate response.”

Anxiety over potential storms is nothing new to Rothman and his team. Heading into hurricane season earlier this year, Alliance for Aging had shelf-stable meals out in advance to its providers in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

“When we get warning, our providers can get meals into the homes of regular clients who won’t be able to get out to a senior center or receive Meals on Wheels,” he says. “They’ll get them in advance for three to five days to tide them over until relief can be obtained.”

He also travels to Washington, D.C., to advocate on behalf of the aging population. Discussions involving health care reform must address long-term care, he says.

“Medicare does not provide long-term care,” says Rothman, who earned his J.D. at University of Michigan. “The fact of the matter is that more people are living longer — they’re living healthier — but at some point they will need long-term care, which is very expensive. Unless you’re incredibly wealthy, you can’t afford it, and unless you’re incredibly poor, you’re not going to get assistance. As a matter of public policy, addressing this need for long-term care is a fundamental challenge this country has not addressed effectively.”

The government and law graduate relished exploring his academic interests at Lafayette.

“I had extensive opportunities to conduct research at Lafayette, especially during my last two years,” he says. “I spent much of that time in the library working on research papers in government and law, history, and literature, culminating in my honors thesis on policy-making in the Department of State.  I enjoyed those opportunities immensely, and I have continued to apply analytical and writing skills that I learned during those years throughout my career.”

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