CHICAGO – American Medical Association (AMA) CEO James L. Madara, MD, today made the following statement on a recent podcast and tweet published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA):

The AMA’s House of Delegates passed policy stating that racism is structural, systemic, cultural, and interpersonal and we are deeply disturbed—and angered—by a recent JAMA podcast that questioned the existence of structural racism and the affiliated tweet that promoted the podcast and stated ‘no physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care?’ JAMA has editorial independence from AMA, but this tweet and podcast are inconsistent with the policies and views of AMA and I’m concerned about and acknowledge the harms they have caused. Structural racism in health care and our society exists and it is incumbent on all of us to fix it.”

Background:

In June 2020, the AMA Board of Trustees pledged action to confront systemic racism and police brutality.

AMA policy also explicitly acknowledges racism’s role in perpetuating health inequities and inciting harm against historically marginalized communities and society as a whole. Specifically, the policy passed at the November 2020 Special Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates recognizes racism in its systemic, cultural, interpersonal, and other forms as a serious threat to public health, to the advancement of health equity, and a barrier to appropriate medical care. It makes clear that a proactive approach to prevent, or identify and eliminate racism is crucial—particularly considering that studies show historically marginalized populations in the U.S. have shorter lifespans, greater physical and mental illness burden, earlier onset and aggressive progression of disease, higher maternal and infant mortality, and less access to health care.

The policy describes the various forms of racism as follows:

  • Systemic racism: structural and legalized system that results in differential access to goods and services, including health care services.
  • Cultural racism: negative and harmful racial stereotypes portrayed in culturally shared media and experiences.
  • Interpersonal racism: implicit and explicit racial prejudice, including explicitly expressed racist beliefs and implicitly held racist attitudes and actions based upon or resulting from these prejudices.

In February 2021, AMA CEO James L. Madara, MD, published a viewpoint acknowledging that decisions made by AMA leaders of the past have contributed to a health care system plagued by inequities. 

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The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.

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