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CEO DATELINE – JAMA editor-in-chief steps down after racism controversy

June 2, 2021
By Walt Williams

The editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association is stepping down after the publication released a podcast and tweet suggesting there are no racist doctors.

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Howard Bauchner announced Tuesday that he would step down as editor-in-chief on June 30. In a statement on AMA’s website, he expressed regret over the incident.

“I remain profoundly disappointed in myself for the lapses that led to the publishing of the tweet and podcast. 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.

The podcast, which was released in February, featured a discussion between JAMA editors about the role of structural racism in medicine, according to the news site Stat. One editor questioned whether racism could be embedded in society since it was illegal. He also argued that the term “racist” shouldn’t be used because it hurts people’s feelings.

JAMA promoted the podcast with a tweet that read: “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in healthcare?” Both the podcast and tweet were taken down after AMA received numerous complaints, particularly from physicians of color.

Bauchner has been on administrative leave, Stat reported. One of the JAMA editors featured in the podcast, Edward Livingstone, resigned in March.

JAMA is one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals. Its editors are mostly doctors or other medical professionals. Bauchner, a pediatrician, was named editor-in-chief in 2011. AMA CEO James Madara praised Bauchner’s past work in reorganizing and expanding the reach of JAMA’s network of media properties.

“Howard has made many visionary decisions during his time as editor-in-chief of JAMA—decisions which have greatly enhanced all of the journals of the JAMA Network,” Madara said in a statement.

JAMA Executive Editor Phil Fontanarosa will serve as interim editor-in-chief until a new editor is appointed, AMA said. The association plans to form a search committee to fill the position on a full-time basis.