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JAMA Editor Out Over Colleague's Racism Comments

June 2, 2021
 
 

Dr. Howard Bauchner will step down as editor in chief of JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association and JAMA Network at the end of June, the American Medical Association announced Tuesday. Bauchner was previously on administrative leave, pending an association investigation into comments another JAMA editor made denying that structural racism exists in medicine. “I remain profoundly disappointed in myself for the lapses that led to the publishing of the tweet and podcast,” Bauchner said in a statement. “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 also said he shares “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. To advance equity in medicine, my contributions will be best accomplished in other venues.” The “best path forward,” he said, “is to create an opportunity for new leadership at JAMA.” Bauchner remains a professor of pediatrics and community health sciences at Boston University. Dr. Phil Fontanarosa, JAMA’s executive director, will serve as interim editor in chief until a new editor is named.

Earlier this year, Dr. Edward Livingston, then JAMA’s deputy editor, said in a since-deleted JAMA Network podcast that “Structural racism is an unfortunate term. Personally, I think taking racism out of the conversation will help. Many of us are offended by the concept that we are racist.” JAMA also tweeted about the podcast, “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care?” Both the podcast and the tweet were promptly criticized as insensitive and failing to grasp what structural racism is -- a problem for a leading medical journal in 2021.

Livingston resigned following the incident, and Bauchner apologized as the association launched an investigation. The association did not release any details about its findings. A JAMA editorial by Fontanarosa and Annette Flanagin, executive managing editor, says, “The past 10 years of Howard Bauchner’s leadership have represented unprecedented progress, growth, and innovation for JAMA and the JAMA Network of scientific publications. His diligence, perseverance, evidence-based approach, and keen instincts have led these journals to new levels of success that never seemed imaginable, except perhaps to him and his strategic ‘moon shots.’”

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