The editor-in-chief of the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association will step down after the publication received backlash over controversial comments made by another editor on a podcast.
Dr. Howard Bauchner, who has held the top position at JAMA since 2011 and whose resignation will take effect on June 30, announced his decision in a statement on Tuesday. He has been on administrative leave since March while the American Medical Association reviewed the matter.
Bauchner said he remained “profoundly disappointed in myself for the lapses” that led to the JAMA Network putting out a podcast episode and tweet featuring comments that dismissed the existence of structural racism within the health care system.
“Although I did not write or even see the tweet, or create the podcast, as editor in chief, I am ultimately responsible for them,” Bauchner said in his statement.
“I share and have always supported the AMA’s commitment to dismantling structural racism in the institutions of American medicine, as evident by numerous publications in JAMA on this issue and related subjects, and look forward to personally contributing to that work going forward,” he added.
During the podcast episode that aired Feb. 24, deputy editor Ed Livingston said structural racism no longer existed in the United States.
“‘Structural racism’ is an unfortunate term,” Livingston said. “Personally, I think taking racism out of the conversation will help. Many people like myself are offended by the implication that we are somehow racist.”
JAMA sent a tweet to promote the episode that stated, “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care?” The tweet was later deleted. Livingston resigned in March.
Dr. Stella Safo, a Black primary care physician at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and her colleagues then started a petition calling for a formal review of Bauchner’s leadership. The petition, which had been signed by more than 9,000 people as of Tuesday, also demanded JAMA “schedule a series of town hall conversations with Black, Indigenous and People of Color patients, health care staff and allies to ensure restorative justice.”
“This is a real moment for JAMA and the AMA to recreate themselves from a founding history that was based in segregation and racism to one that is now based on racial equity,” Safo told The New York Times.
Dr. James Madara, the AMA’s CEO and executive vice president, said last month that the organization would implement a three-year plan to focused on “dismantling of structural racism” in health care.
Madara expressed regret over the podcast and tweet that “minimized the effects of systemic racism in health care and questioned its profound impact on millions of people across our country.”
“To be clear, structural racism exists in the U.S. and in medicine, genuinely affecting the health of all people, especially people of color and others historically marginalized in society,” Madara wrote in his statement. “This is not opinion or conjecture, it is proven in numerous studies, through the science and in the evidence.”
Phil Fontanarosa, the journal’s executive editor, will serve as the interim editor-in-chief during the AMA’s search for Bauchner’s replacement.
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