Editor of one of largest medical journals stepped down after questioning structural racism in medicine

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Howard Bauchner, editor-in-chief of The Journal of the American Medical Association, in 2013.
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  • Howard Bauchner stepped down as editor-in-chief of JAMA following racial bias controversy.
  • The AMA had been investigating Bauchner after a JAMA tweet said, "No physician is racist."
  • Bauchner said he was "disappointed" in himself over the tweet, according to a release.
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The editor-in-chief of a renowned medical journal has stepped down after the publication recorded a podcast questioning the existence of structural racism in healthcare.

The American Medical Association announced Howard Bauchner, the top editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), would step down on June 30 after being on administrative leave. JAMA, a peer-reviewed medical journal that dates back to 1883, claims to be the most widely circulated journal in the world, per its website.

The AMA had been investigating Bauchner since March after JAMA's official Twitter account sent a now-deleted post that read: "No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care?" The tweet promoted a podcast, also subsequently deleted, that discussed how doctors are "offended" at being called racist, according to The Root.

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The tweet led to widespread social media backlash. The Institute for Antiracism in Medicine, a group founded by three Black women physicians, launched a petition to review whether Bauchner had failed to diversify editorial staff or made discriminatory remarks.

"I remain profoundly disappointed in myself for the lapses that led to the publishing of the tweet and podcast," Bauchner said in a release. "The best path forward for the JAMA Network, and for me personally, is to create an opportunity for new leadership at JAMA."

Under Bauchner's leadership, JAMA increased production of podcasts, videos, and shorter articles pertaining to medical research. JAMA's social media following increased from 15,000 in 2011 to over 1 million in 2021 during Bauchner's tenure, according to a release.

AMA said it has begun to form a search committee to appoint a new editor-in-chief. Phil Fontanarosa, JAMA's executive editor, will serve as interim editor-in-chief.

Numerous studies have linked racial bias to the treatment of Black patients. A 2020 report published by Jamila Taylor, the director of health care reform at The Century Foundation, found historical racial bias contributes to Black mothers being two to three times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. The New York Times reported Black Americans had been less impacted by the opioid crisis because physicians were less likely to empathise with their pain and more likely to assume they would abuse prescription pain killers.

Susan Moore, a Black physician, posted a video in December in which she accused doctors at an Indianapolis hospital of neglecting her pain because of her race. She soon died of Covid-19, and her video sparked outrage over racial bias in medicine.

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