JAMA editor resigns after Twitter controversy

A top editor at the Journal for American Medical Association (JAMA) has stepped down, the American Medical Association has confirmed. 

Howard Bauchner, MD, resigned as editor in chief of the journal, effective June 30. The change in leadership comes after AMA reviewed comments during a JAMA podcast and a controversial tweet about structural racism made by Bauchner.

The tweet, which was published after the comments of the February 24 podcast, stated, “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care?” The New York Times reported. The tweet was deleted. 

“I remain profoundly disappointed in myself for the lapses that led to the publishing of the tweet and podcast,” Bauchner said in a statement June 1. “Although I did not write or even see the tweet, or create the podcast, as editor-in-chief, I am ultimately responsible for them.”

Reportedly, another JAMA editor, Edward Livingston, MD, said, “Structural racism is an unfortunate term,” the NY Times reported. “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,” Livingston continued.

“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,” Bauchner said. “To advance equity in medicine, my contributions will be best accomplished in other venues. The best path forward for the JAMA Network, and for me personally, is to create an opportunity for new leadership at JAMA.

Executive Editor Phil Fontanarosa, MD, will serve as interim editor in chief until a new editor of JAMA is appointed. The AMA has formed a search committee, chaired by Otis Brawley, MD, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Oncology and Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, to start the process of appointing a new editor in chief. 

In the aftermath of the incidents, a petition emerged asking JAMA to hire an editor focused on structural racism issues in health care.

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