AMA Vows to Fight Racism in Medicine

The American Medical Association (AMA) has released a strategic plan to fight racism and white supremacy in the U.S. health care system. The association, which excluded Black doctors for more than 100 years, acknowledged in the report its previous silence on health equity and other issues.

Included in the 83-page document is a three-year action plan for the AMA to implement antiracist strategies internally, build alliances with doctors of color, and help physicians tackle root causes of inequality. The work for the plan began in 2019, when the AMA established its Center for Health Equity. Earlier, in 2008, the organization issued a public apology for its exclusion of Black physicians. More recently, it has acknowledged structural racism as a public health issue, removed the name of its founder from an annual award because of racism, and invested $6 million in fighting racial disparities in health care in Chicago, where the AMA is headquartered.

Additionally, the organization plans to take steps to boost the number of Black, Latino, and indigenous students enrolled in medical schools and ensure health care artificial intelligence does not use racially biased algorithms.

The AMA added that its plan also extends to other marginalized groups, including women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people with disabilities.

Some physicians who spoke with STAT criticized the report. “While there’s discussion about truth, reconciliation, racial healing, and transformation, there’s no discussion about the specific debt AMA owes in light of the damage it has caused with its historic policies and its more recent refusal to step in and move beyond sloganeering and advocacy to being a bully for social justice,” said Raymond Givens, MD, PhD, a cardiologist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York. “What’s needed is a big, bold, aggressive, heavily endowed, and disruptive approach — a Marshall Plan for health equity. I’m still waiting for that.”

Admitting there is much work to be done, AMA president-elect Gerald Harmon, MD, called the report “a step forward in a much longer journey.”

Sources: STAT, May 11, 2021; AMA’s strategic plan, May 5, 2021.