JAMA Editor-in-Chief Resigns After Releasing Content Questioning Racism in Medicine

Howard Bauchner, MD, has resigned from his role as editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) following a controversial podcast episode and tweet questioning whether structural racism exists in medicine.

Although Dr. Bauchner took responsibility for the publication of the material, JAMA deputy editor Edward Livingston, MD, crafted the podcast and tweet. Dr. Livingston resigned in March amid the backlash.

As part of a discussion about the podcast with Mitchell Katz, MD, an editor at JAMA Internal Medicine and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, Dr. Livingston questioned whether racism was embedded in society and criticized the use of the term racism, arguing that it might make people feel bad. Dr. Katz told STAT he was not part of the episode’s production.
AMA is conducting an ongoing investigation and is forming a committee led by Otis Brawley, MD, a professor of oncology and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, whose research focuses on disparities in health care. In the interim, executive editor Phil Fontanarosa, MD, will serve as editor-in-chief.

“My biggest takeaway is that our voices can really influence how things go,” said Brittani James, MD, from the University of Illinois College of Medicine, who helped launch a petition calling for widespread change at JAMA. The petition now has more than 9,000 signatures.

“I genuinely hope the change opens up the opportunity for JAMA to rethink structure, leadership, and processes that held JAMA back from excellence in handling race,” Siobhan Wescott, MD, MPH, a physician and longtime AMA member involved with the organization’s Minority Affairs Section, told STAT.

In response to criticism of the AMA’s new plan to address systemic racism in health care, incoming AMA president Gerald Harmon, MD, said: “The existence of racism within medicine and society, both historically and present day, is not up for dispute. The only question is how we, as physicians, will lead in confronting the health implications of it.”

Source: STAT, June 1, 2021.